By Ben Ochieng
NAIROBI, April 2 (Xinhua) -- Ten years ago, when only 26, a former Kenya national ladies hockey team player played the dual role of vice captain and team doctor to her colleagues.
As a young medic in 2008, Dr. Carol Okoth, now 35, was called upon by the cash-strapped Kenya Hockey Union (KHU) to serve as team doctor to the squad that did national duty for the country during the 2008 Olympic Qualifiers in Baku, Azerbaijan as a means of cutting down on costs.
Even though the team lost all its matches without scoring a single goal, Okoth said she was privileged to serve as team doctor where in conjunction with the physio-therapist, they tried their level best to keep the team in top medical condition.
"Fortunately, we did not encounter many serious injuries, a factor that enabled me to focus on playing," Okoth told Xinhua during an interview.
"However, it could have got quite tricky were an injury to occur of which I would have interrupted my play to attend to the injured as did happen during one of the training sessions in Nairobi before the Baku trip," she reminisced.
The 2007 graduate of University of Nairobi School of Medicine said that happens because attending to an injured person requires a doctor's full attention, and by the time one resumes play, they would have already lost the rhythm to the game which takes time to regain.
"Preferably, it is better to have a full-time doctor on board so that they can give undivided attention to the team," she said.
There was a medical team in Baku put up by the International Hockey Federation (FIH) that worked in conjunction with the Azerbaijani medical personnel that came in handy whenever Okoth encountered situations beyond her scope as a team doctor or which required more specialized attention.
Did she handle casualties during the trip? "Yes I did, but the assistance I received from my colleague and the FIH personnel eased my burden, considering that I played all matches."
Okoth mentioned one incident when she sprained her ankle after being tackled by a Belarusian player and in a turn of tables, the doctor became the patient.
Another incident involved her teammate who dislocated her jaw during a short corner, but was swiftly attended to by the FIH medical team.
Some people have questioned KHU's wisdom of apportioning the former vice-captain the dual responsibility, with some suggesting that the union exploited her passion for the game, instead of employing a full-time doctor.
"What the union did is unforgivable, and never before in my long involvement in sports have I come across such a situation where a player doubles up as someone else. Does it mean that if you have a chef in a team they end up cooking for their teammates?" asked a veteran coach who requested anonymity.
Tall, athletic and youthful-looking, the calm and collected Okoth, who has since given room to young blood in the game, said that love of sports flows in the family blood.
"My brothers played hockey in high school, so my first encounter with the game was courtesy of their hockey sticks which I used up to secondary school," she intoned.
Okoth added that given another chance, she would play the role of team doctor without hesitation.