Sgt Yamikani Guba “It’s all about selfless commitment”

Warfighting in Afghanistan or competing at the Olympics? It’s not a choice most of us will ever have to make – but this was the reality for Sergeant (Sgt) Yamikani Guba in 2011.

The Royal Horse Artillery gunner had the chance to compete for Malawi in the London 2012 Olympics, but instead went to Afghanistan for the second time. When the Army’s senior leadership learned of his actions, Sgt Guba received a General Officer Commanding (GOC) Commendation for selfless commitment.


“My first deployment was quite challenging as I was fresh from training – I joined the Army in 2007 and went to Afghanistan a year later. But I was doing something I loved so I got used to it. And although I’d had that experience I wanted to go again and deploy with everyone else in my Regiment,” explained Sgt Guba.

Having always wanted to join the British Army, Sgt Guba has now been to Afghanistan three times, and taken part in overseas exercises in Europe, Canada, Kenya and South Korea among others. He’s now able to use that experience in his new role as a Detachment Commander.

“My new regiment 4th Regiment Royal Artillery – ‘The Fighting Fourth’ – is more supportive of my sports career than ever. Thanks to the great support of my Chain of Command, the Army Martial Arts Association and Army Sports, I’ve been able to balance my day job with training and competing,” said Sgt Guba.

With over 250 medals to his name – more than 190 of which are gold – Sgt Guba is both a professional soldier and a professional athlete. Although he’s a black belt in Judo, Kendo and Karate, his main sport is Taekwondo where he’s a 5th Dan Black Belt and has been team captain for both the Army and UK Armed Forces – combined Army, Navy and RAF – teams for more than a decade.

He’s the only Senior non-commissioned officer in the UK Armed Forces to be competing for Taekwondo at such a high level. “My sporting career has been massively helped by being in the British Army. I wouldn’t have been able to manage by myself. The Army provides me so much – financial assistance, time, training facilities – it’s had a big impact on my achievements.”

Sgt Guba was on the BAE Systems Sports Scholarship for three years and has been on the Army’s elite sports programme – the Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme – since 2019. “You have to reapply to the scheme every year and it’s not just about participating in different events – you have to prove you have been winning them,” he explained. “The national governing body scrutinise all the applications, looking at what has been achieved across all applicants from the entire UK Armed Forces (UKAF). It’s a long process.”

But, he says, it’s worth it for the access to professional support and world-class amenities at Northumbria University in Newcastle, where he can use not only most of the sports facilities on campus, but also benefit from strength and conditioning training, physiotherapy, and coaches in nutrition, lifestyle and sports psychology.

He says it’s easier to manage his day job in the Army and his training commitments in his current rank: “I typically spend half my day at work and half my day training. I’ve occasionally gone straight from a military training exercise to a Taekwondo competition, which takes a lot of preparation! But everyone has understood.”

The combined support has helped him win big, with 13 medals this year in both national and international competitions representing the Army and UKAF teams, including the European Masters Games in Finland and the Dutch Open. He’s also set to participate in the British National Taekwondo Championships at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield at the end of the month.

Sgt Guba still has plans to make the Olympic Games one day, but is also focusing on broadening his Taekwondo skillset. He is being put through his Grading, Coaching and Skills course by the Army later this year – all of which he uses back in Malawi to teach at his local club. “I’m the only professional heavyweight athlete in this sport in Malawi, so I’m hoping to get the call up for the next African competition and qualify for the Olympics,” he concluded.