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Olympics: Cindy Ngamba, 1-st boxer of the IOC refugee team, eyes gold

Boxer Cindy Ngamba of Cameroon   -  
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'X' formerly Twitter @CindyNgamba

Olympic games Paris 2024

25-year-old Cindy Ngamba made history earlier this year when she became the first boxer ever to be included in the International Olympic Committee (IOC) refugee team.

Her passion for boxing was born 10 years ago. She will never forget that day: “As I entered the room, I saw lots of boys in there sweaty, I think smoke, flames (steam from their workouts) just hit me in the face. You know, all I could hear were people punching a bag, in a boxing ring, punching each other, shadowboxing, skipping and them making, you know, weird sounds as they're punching each other, punching a bag. So… and I fell in love with it, you know, I fell in love with the sport. And that was when I knew, you know, I'm interested in this. ...

From a continent where football reign supreme, Ngamba originally thought it was the sport that would guide her life. However, things began changin once when she ventured into the world of boxing and started learning more about icons of the discipline.

"When I first started boxing, the main one that I always looked at, watched, was Mike Tyson and Muhammad Ali. They were like, you know, they're like the role model of every, the idol of every boxer out there, whether the new generation or the old generation,” the Cameroon-born explains.

Now, after bagging titles of her own and evolving in the discipline for years she has been introduced to other inspirations: “There are many, many, boxers out there in the whole wide world, female-wise and, you know, in the amateur, like Savannah Marshall, Natasha Jonas and Chantelle Cameron and Lauren Price and as many, many out there, Karriss (Artingstall).”

Resilience and self-belief

Ngamba emigrated to the UK aged about 10.

It has not been an easy journey for Ngamba.

Five years ago she thought that her time in Britain was up when she was arrested along with her brother Kennet and sent to a detention camp in London.

Ngamba is unable to return to Cameroon due to her sexuality - and being sent back there was a frightening prospect.

Homosexuality legislation in the African country can attract a prison sentence of up to five years.

Her immigration status hung in the balance, but she - and Kennet - were ultimately able to remain in the UK. She gained a refugee status in 2020 which enabled her to pursue her Olympic dream.

She now says the experience has given her a steeliness and self-belief that has helped her in the ring.

"Being in that situation... you either sink or you stand up tall and strong. So I chose to stand up tall and strong," she said. "If I can go through that moment in life and I stay strong no matter what comes in my life, I'm always going to be able to lift myself."

She is still fighting for UK citizenship, but has worked her way through school and graduated from University with a degree in criminology.

And her goals for Paris 2024? Top spot on the podium of course.

"The goal for the Olympics is to go for gold, come on!"

"Everyone wants gold and that's what you work for," she added. "I'm going to go out there and do my best and work hard. And just like every refugee athlete, we're going to go out there and aim for the highest."

She will head to Paris along with 36 athletes who are part of the IOC refugee team.