“a story of hope”

Ronnie Gundo

Celebration, Ronnie hyped up after kenya cruised to the finals of the Afrocan 2019 in Mali. Kenya defeated Morocco 96-66photo courtesy: FIBA

By Ariel Okall

Editor: Brenda Mwaniki

As an athlete, temporary pain should be your best friend. It means transformation from who you are, to what you want to become. However, when the pain becomes regular, it turns into a nightmare. For Ronald Gundo Gombe, what started as normal soreness felt by every athlete after a hard session in the gym, turned into unbearable pain. A clear warning that something was amiss. He didn’t pay much attention to it until it started tearing his body apart, torturing him mentally and pushing him towards depression. It took strong will to rise above getting torn down by pain, to pick up the pieces and create a masterpiece. A work of art that would be admired by many. The basketball journey of Ronnie has been a roller coaster ride, from the loss of his father early in life, to the devastating injury that almost claimed his basketball career. His will was tested but deep down he found a way out. He found the power to bounce back.

Ronnie throws down a dunk while in action for Robert Morris Colonials in America Photo courtesy: Justin Berl gettyimages

Gundo is an alumnus of The Maseno School in Kenya and Robert Morris University in Moon Township, Pennsylvania USA, which is a NCAA division one team that competes in the Northeast Conference. Gundo made his way to America following invites to basketball camps where he toured with one of the AAU teams. He excelled in the summer program where, after a series of tournaments was named the Most Valuable Player. He is a member of the Kenya National Men’s Basketball team, the Kenya Morans. He has also featured for Strathmore university basketball team, Blades. He now plays professionally for Trapa Palencia/Filipenses In Spain. Ronnie shared his story with Th3Doctors Report and this is what he had to say:

1: You’re one of the most quiet people I know and yet so loud at the same time. Your fans want to know what they should call you, do you have a nickname?

“I have been given many, friends in USA call me Kenya’s finest or Rondawg but I stick to Ronnie”

2: Before we continue, I like to ask this question a lot and I always get a different answer. What is your motivation? Your why?

“My “why” has always been bigger than basketball and bigger than myself. It’s what I believe got me through my darkest times and In that, I find purpose and a reason to play basketball.”

3: Let’s talk about your Injury, an athlete’s worst nightmare. You have gone through tough times but most people don’t know this part of your life. What really happened?

“I tore a muscle in my lower abdomen around the groin area. An injury commonly known as a Sports hernia or an athletic pubalgia.  I don’t actually know how it happened but I remember feeling a sharp pain on my right side around my pelvic area after a weight session in the off season. I continued to work out and practice through it, I thought it would go away but that never happened. It got to a point I couldn’t even walk straight. I went to the doctor’s and they found a major muscle imbalance around my hip area. My hamstring was too strong which caused overuse of the adductor tendon and other muscles. Surgery was then recommended to repair the injury. “

4: After that diagnosis, what went through your mind when they said you had to have surgery?

  “So many things went through my mind, but I had to be mentally strong and keep believing that no matter what, I would get better. When everything is out of your control, your sure bet is winning the battle on your knees. So I Prayed. I’m a believer”

Ronnie in his hospital bed just before his surgery

5: How did the surgery go and how long did it take you to get back on the court ?

“The surgery was successful and the tear was repaired, the adductor tendon was released on the left side, in simple terms they cut it at the groin. I recovered and it didn’t take long for me to get back. Two minutes into my first game post-surgery, it happened again. This meant another surgery and I missed the entire season”

6: That was a major setback, getting the same injury twice can mess up your mental strength, did you see yourself getting out of that disaster?

“My faith was truly tested. I chose to believe contrary to what my body was communicating. I had no choice but to rise above the tragedy, i was in a lot of pain and couldn’t even walk, but deep down i knew i was going to run, and i was going dunk again. The worst part was, I hadn’t heard of any other cases of this injury so it was hard to compare myself with someone who’d had it before. I was alone and it was scary ”

7: Talk about the recovery process, did you trust the process or were you ready to give up?

“Injuries are the worst. Without a proper support system one can easily fall into depression or even worse. The doctor and my trainer helped me to stay positive regardless of the doubts. I was determined. I would to get to rehab on time and do my exercises even without supervision. I had to be on the same page with my trainer. It was hard. On some days it felt like the trainer was asking for too much but I pushed through. I knew I’d be back and I did just that. I played my last year and graduated with a Masters degree. I came back home for a National Team Assignment and we won the Zone V Afrocan qualifiers, then the silver medal later on in Mali”

8: A great feeling indeed, how did it feel to be part of the Morans and the history the team made?

“Nothing beats the feeling of representing the flag on such big stages. Everything else that comes with it is a plus. It’s a privilege that I’ll forever be grateful for, I had more fun than I’d had in a long time. We understood the task at hand and it brought us success in Uganda and Mali. It was bigger than us and this took pressure off our shoulders because we knew we had each others’ backs. It became everyone’s responsibility to make sure that we were in great spirits to give the best version of ourselves in every game. Whatever it took to get us going we did, Singing, dancing, clowning at each other, you name it. It was a great experience. I’m looking forward to the next one”

A calm Ronnie in a wheelchair a few days after his operation, being released from the hospital

9: The Morans are really inspiring a lot of young people out there. What is your message to the young generation?

“This game will take you places. Define your “places” and work towards that direction. Anything that doesn’t point to that is a distraction. Work! Work! Work!”

10: What about youth basketball in the country? What are your thoughts on that? Are we headed in the right direction ?

“The future is bright, actually super bright. There are plenty of young guys passionate about the game. Basketball is a lot more popular in the inner city than it used to be and this is clear from how early kids are starting to learn the game. The youth development camps in various neighborhoods are starting to pay off. It’s only up from here”

11: If you had to start all over again, would you do anything differently?

“I think the only thing I’d do different is pick up that ball earlier than I did. As cliché as it may sound, If I knew what basketball was at age 10, I tend to think that maybe the story would have been a little different…just maybe”

12: You have played the game in three countries, can you give us a comparison?

“It’s hard to compare. I believe I haven’t played my best basketball yet. Each place has taught me a different aspect of the game. Kenya is where the ground work was laid. USA clearly gave me a perspective of how much time players really put in their craft. Student athletes really have no life besides class and the gym. It’s more of the other way round, the gym then class. No wonder America is a basketball power house and on the next level. In Spain, it’s more attention to detail and being a student of the game. It’s more than just the physical aspect of the game”

13: What are the lessons you have learnt in your basketball career, especially having a rather tough journey?

“From experience, I’d tell athletes to understand their bodies well enough to know what they’re communicating. There is a difference between soreness and pain. You can toughen up through regular soreness but for regular pain, it’s better to get it checked before it gets worse”

A happy Gundo tosses the ball in the air on his graduation day, he graduated with a masters degree
Ronnie (right) pose for a photo with Bush Wamukota (left) at the Afrocan championship 2019 Mali photo courtesy: FIBA
Ronnie (second left) celebrating with the Morans after defeating Ivory Coast at the Afrocan Championship in Mali 2019 Photo courtesy:FIBA

They say a setback is a setup to a greater comeback and what a comeback Ronnie Gundo has had. If you dig deeper within yourself in the darkest time of your life, you will either find your best friend or your worst enemy. You may find courage to carry you through your toughest struggle or lack of will power that pushes you to tap out. Whichever you choose defines who you become. You will hit the dirt numerous times. It happens. It is sheer will and courage from within that will help you bounce back and stronger you shall be. We all fall sometimes. Seven times we touch the floor and eight times we rise and touch the sky. Will power is the fuel that drives your inner being in times of struggle. Ronnie Gundo had the power of will to overcome. His life struggles made him the man he is today.  Adversity defined his purpose and He rose regardless.

By Ariel Okall


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *