From handcuffs to hope: Cameroon’s Cindy Ngamba’s road to Olympics


In the world of boxing, perseverance often defines champions. For Cindy Ngamba, the journey from Cameroon to the brink of the Paris Olympics has been a testament to her resilience in the face of adversity.

Ngamba’s story is one of determination, navigating a challenging path from her homeland to England, where she now resides and trains for her shot at Olympic glory. Her aspirations, however, have not been without formidable obstacles.

Having moved to the UK at the age of 10, Ngamba has spent over 15 years striving to establish herself in her adopted country, where she proudly calls home.

Cindy Ngamba. PHOTO: X

Yet, despite her unwavering dedication, she faces the ongoing struggle of obtaining a British passport and citizenship—a requirement to represent Team GB in this summer’s Olympics.

This bureaucratic roadblock, however, has not extinguished Ngamba’s Olympic dream. Instead, it has spurred her to new heights as she secured a scholarship with the IOC refugee team, ensuring her participation in the upcoming games.

“The way I see it is that all those setbacks, coming to the UK, my childhood, the paper situation and my boxing, it just makes me stronger mentally and physically,” Cindy Ngamba.

Ngamba’s determination is forged from a past marked by challenges and uncertainty. At the age of 20, she faced the looming threat of deportation after innocuously attending a routine check-in with authorities.

Cindy Ngamba. PHOTO: X

To her shock, she was arrested alongside her brother and swiftly sent to a detention camp in London. The experience left her reeling, uncertain of her future in a place she had come to call home.

“I got sent to London and when I was there I spoke with loads of females. Some told me they had been there for many months and years. Some were going to be sent back to their country the next day and I’m thinking ‘am I going to be sent back next?'” Ngamba told BBC Sports Africa.

Ngamba’s plight is further complicated by her inability to return to Cameroon due to the persecution faced by LGBTQ individuals in her home country.

Her survival in England has been marked by hard work and perseverance, culminating in her graduation from Bolton University with a degree in criminology—a testament to her unwavering determination to succeed against all odds.

Boxing emerged as Ngamba’s salvation during her teenage years, providing an outlet to channel her frustrations and hone her skills. Despite initial challenges at Elite Boxing gym in Bolton, where she was initially restricted to skipping and cardio, Ngamba’s talent soon became undeniable.

Cindy Ngamba. PHOTO: X

She quickly rose through the ranks, becoming a National Amateur champion across three weight classes—an achievement paralleled only by the esteemed Natasha Jonas.

Ngamba’s prowess in the ring caught the attention of GB Boxing, whose Olympic program beckoned. Yet, despite their desire to include her, bureaucratic barriers prevented her from formally joining their ranks due to citizenship requirements.

Undeterred, Ngamba’s journey has seen her spar with boxing luminaries such as Natasha Jonas, Chantelle Cameron, Savannah Marshall, and Lauren Price—elevating her skills and resilience with each round.

Her victory in the Olympic qualifiers in Italy earlier this year secured her place on the Refugee Olympic Team—a historic milestone as the first-ever boxer to represent the team at the Games.

Cindy Ngamba. PHOTO: X

Reflecting on her tumultuous journey, Ngamba’s spirit remains unbroken. “The way I see it is that all those setbacks, coming to the UK, my childhood, the paper situation, and my boxing, it just makes me stronger mentally and physically,” she remarked.

“I believe I can achieve anything that I put my mind to because I’ve gone through worse with my paper situation.”

As Cindy Ngamba prepares to step into the Olympic ring in Paris, she carries with her the hopes of a resilient spirit, a testament to the transformative power of perseverance in the face of adversity.

Her story embodies the true essence of Olympic ideals—strength, determination, and the unwavering pursuit of dreams against all odds.

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