TALES of prosperity are often told with astonishing revelations of how one would have risen from being nearly a nobody, to become an influential and integral personality in the community.
We have heard stories of how successful people — be they soccer players, businessmen, musicians and actors — came from with some giving heart-piercing tales of their past.
Poverty, abuse, being neglected, sheer luck, hard work and perseverance all have been coined as these people explain how they ended up in the positions they are today. There is an account of an emerging jockey, O’Meara Chiedza Rusike, who happens to be the first black female jockey to win a race.
The tale speaks volumes of how some people instantly rise from absolute obscurity to fame, fortune and celebrity status. O’Meara’s story can be traced back to the streets of Harare’s high density suburb of Glen Norah, where she was born and bred before she parted ways with her biological parents at a tender age.
It was the warm hands of Perseverance and Joyce Ganga, who adopted her in 2012, that catapulted O’Meara to fame.
“My mom passed on when I was two years old in 2002. I then went on to stay with my grandma after my dad went to stay with his second wife. He used to visit us during weekends before he died in 2006. I attended Ruvheneko Primary School, then Highfield High School for forms One and Two. And when I moved in with the Ganga couple; Percy and his wife, I attended Mt Pleasant High School.
“Perseverance was a neighbour and used to stay some four houses from ours. He started befriending me when I was young, and at times he would call me his wife. He also used to refer to me as an intelligent person. He was the one who helped me with school items until the time he married. I was really touched and at the same time shocked to hear him introducing me to his wife as his first daughter. It was in 2012,” she said.
O’Meara, who prefers being called by her second name, Chiedza, said she endured a turbulent childhood that also saw her working at a service station in Southerton when she was 17.
“When I was waiting for my Ordinary Level results, I went to work at Zuva Service Station because my dad was that kind of person who believed that if you want to do something then you have to prove it. He was the one who looked for a job for me. It was during the time when I was working at Zuva when my dad came saying he had seen an advert in The Herald seeking to recruit jockeys. Five of us made it after the interviews, but the others dropped along the way,” she said.
O’Meara said she has siblings, aged 28 and 29, who have since started their own families. Interestingly, O’Meara wished to be an air hostess.
“When I saw these animals (horses) it was when I started thinking and said no, I am a jockey. In future I would like to represent Zimbabwe at bigger races like the Durban July Festival in South Africa and the Dubai World Cup, which is the world’s richest race, and compete with other jockeys, so that I become the best female jockey from Zimbabwe,” she said.
O’Meara also revealed that she was not intimidated by men in the male-dominated sport, saying she actually draws encouragement from working in such an environment.
“It feels great to be in this male-dominated area of sport. I have never been intimidated by any men. Actually, these boys do push me through and they encourage me to do certain things. I do participate in everything that the boys do. If our trainer says run 200 metres, then I run the length,” she said.
The 21-year-old said she trained her mind not to think of certain food and she lives on a ‘tight’ diet. “At first I could not cope with it as we have a special diet, but I have to train my mind saying if I have to be in it, then I have to maintain my weight. It means I have to do away with foods like chocolates and bread. I have to survive on vegetables and protein,” she said.
Although she could not be drawn into revealing the identity of her lover, O’Meara revealed that she was in love.
“We are not yet staying together, as he stays in Marimba and I am staying in Greencroft,” she said.
The dread-locked jockey said she is still in connection with her ghetto — Glen Norah — which she visits whenever she finds time. “I will be visiting my area possibly this weekend, but I usually visit Glen Norah at the end of each month,” she said.
She recalled an incident where she had an accident on the track, which almost forced her out of racing. “I almost called it quits because the incident traumatised me. The horse that I was riding had a deep gush on its chest and it was terrible,” she said.
O’Meara made history by becoming the first female black jockey in Zimbabwe to win a major race last Saturday after romping to victory in the 1 100m MR70 Handicap at Borrowdale Racecourse in Harare while riding horse Lunar Dancer. She finished ahead of Mill Creek, Western Shamrock and White Winter.
O’Meara is the only female jockey at the country’s main horse racing venue.