Accident shattered Okoth’s leg, but not his dreams


By Pauline Luba
When Joshua Okoth was asked about his favorite swimming style, he stared into the sky and, without any hesitation, said: “Freestyle.” He explained further, his choice: “It’s for yourself.” 

Okoth was ushered into swimming first as a pastime. He was 12 years old when he went swimming with some of his childhood friends in Entebbe, central Uganda. Initially, Okoth had no intention of getting into the water. However, his friends encouraged him to do so. Once he gave it a try, he did not look back.

This 3.5-minute video, produced by UCU alum, Chris Mutch, shows Okoth in the pool.

For many who know about Okoth’s life history, seeing him as a swimmer is nothing short of a miracle. At eight years of age, one leg was amputated. Okoth was involved in an accident and the only way for his life to continue was to have the leg removed. When that was done, to many, they thought his life would be confined to a wheelchair. But Okoth had other thoughts. With the help of an artificial limb today, he goes about most of his duties.

When he learned how to swim in 2012, it took Okoth another eight years for him to consider taking it up as a competitive sport. He was a student at Nabumali High School in eastern Uganda, when the school opened its swimming pool. 

The 23-year-old remembers being part of the congregation at Nabumali High School when one of the coaches recognized him and asked if he would like to join the swimming team. As expected, he was at first hesitant about the invitation. It took a lot of convincing before he decided to give it a shot. When he did, it took him three weeks to overcome the phobia. Okoth was assigned a special coach who guided him through the basics of swimming in a competition.

And now he is a proud swimmer.

 “I don’t think of anything when I get into the water,” Okoth said, adding: “It’s a game I enjoy.” 

UCU Okoth Aims to Inspire Others Through His Journey

He is constantly inspired by his parents whom he says he wants to make proud, as well as his friends, especially USA acquaintances who keep encouraging him in his pursuit. Okoth says he is who he is because of God’s love. 

Okoth learned how to swim in 2012.
UCU Okoth learned how to swim in 2012.

“I want someone in my condition to know that everything is possible. I dream about a world where the underprivileged are not discriminated against,” says Okoth, a year-one student of Uganda Christian University (UCU), where he is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Accounting and Finance. 

He had initially wanted to study to become a pilot, but Okoth says the high fees for the course turned him away from his earlier dream. He now hopes to qualify as an accountant, so he can practice accountancy in the airlines sector. 

Okoth’s life goal is to see more support offered for people, and, indeed, athletes with disabilities. While growing up, Okoth says he faced many challenges, given his physical disability. Getting to school was hard, he said, because he had to use a wheelchair, yet his family was also in a state of financial instability. Okoth now is an advocate for schools to provide facilitation for students with physical challenges like his, who can bring glory to the institution through sports.

Okoth is the third born of six children of Emmanuel Onyango, a commercial driver, and Aidah Nabulo, a housewife. He attended Vision Nursery and Primary School, Manjasi High School for O’level and Nabumali High School for A’level. All the three schools are in eastern Uganda.