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Pioneer of Kenya’s first professional
gym closes facility, ventures into tennis

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Rick Davies returned to Kenya in 1981 after completing his studies at the Schiller International University and also with the Nautilus Institute based in Florida, USA.

His father, a renowned tennis coach, in 1980 conceived the idea of opening a gym in the country after his many travels across the globe and seeing first class training facilities he visited when he was manager and captain of the Kenya Davis Cup team.

The family invested 100,000 U.S. dollars to set up the first professional gym in Kenya after placing an order for 20 state-of-the-art machines with the founder of Nautilus, Arthur Jones.

“That was a very big order; heavy solid machines - not the commercial type found in many gyms around. To lift even one machine would require six people,” Davies told Xinhua.

The machines arrived in July 1982 and the dream of motivating Kenyans to keep fit became a reality.

“After that, many gyms opened, but Nautilus Health and Fitness Center was the frontrunner and led the way locally in the keep-fit craze that existed in many parts of the world,” Davies stated.

He said more people began to realize that they needed to pay more attention to their body in the form of diet and exercise if they wanted to continue to enjoy life.

“At the same time, I was of the impression that Kenya had somehow remained isolated from the problem and that people enjoyed healthy lifestyle. However, upon my return, I discovered that not only the concept of exercising to keep fit and health alien to the average Kenyan, but there was also total lack of facilities such as a gym or health club for use to keep people in shape,” Davies said.

He operated the iconic facility for 33 years before closing down on Sept.30, 2015 after making Kenyans sweat for a healthy and fit lifestyle.

During its heyday, the club at one time played host to President Uhuru Kenyatta and his sister Nyokabi Kenyatta who trained there in the 1980s.

Several sports icons like former world marathon champion, Douglas Wakiihuri; multiple All Africa Games tennis gold medalist, Jane Davies; and former women’s boxing sensation Conjestina Achieng, all had onced trained there.

“We closed down after three decades mainly because the premises changed hands,” the fitness consultant remarked.

Davies relocated to the JD Tennis Academy at a leafy suburb in Nairobi where currently runs the facility on full-time basis.

In 2016, the facility became the first to lay the rubberized cushion built-in court system akin to the one used for the Australian Open in Melbourne.

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