Atuka back after injury, says no Olympic pressure

Fifteen months after suffering a horrific knee injury while playing for her club Kenya Pipeline in the final leg of the Kenyan Volleyball Federation (KVF) league in Kapsabet, Trizah Atuka has received a clean bill of health.

The Malkia Strikers middle blocker told Citizen Digital she is currently undergoing a field post-injury –a final process of rehabilitation before the return to full action at full intensity-under the watchful eye of Strength and Conditioning specialist, Geoffrey Kimani.

“I’ve been doing the Strengthening and Conditioning and now I’m focusing on the final stage of field rehab as I target to go back where I was before. I thank all those who have stood with me since the worst happened and I promise to come back stronger,” said the former Kenya Pipeline captain.

Atuka, 28, has been out of action since October 2019 after undergoing a successful surgery on her left knee after she ruptured her Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) when she collided with KCB’s Lorine Chebet during the Nandi County Open Tournament.

No Pressure

The Mukumu Girls alumnus outlined that her focus now is to ensure she regains her full fitness and that she is not worried about her position at the Paul Bitok-coached Malkia Strikers.

“Whilst it’s my dream to be part of the Malkia Strikers squad for the Olympics, I don’t have any pressure because I know when I’m fully fit other things will just fall in place. I want to hit top form first with my club then later think about my position at Malkia Strikers,” she said.

Her progress in rehabilitation has come as good news for Malkia Strikers’ gaffer Bitok who termed her return as a ‘massive shot in the arm’ for the nine-time African champions as preparations for the Summer Games get closer.

“We’re happy to have her back to Malkia Strikers team because she’s one of the best middle blockers I know and I believe we need her in the team if she’s fully recovered,” he said, adding: “I’m waiting the report of conditional coach (Kimani) who have been working with her and also her club’s doctors before starting training with the national team.”

However, with Gladys Ekaru and Joan Chelegat perfectly filling Atuka’s shoes during the Olympics qualifiers in Cameroon last year January, Bitok said the dependable middle blocker will need to work hard- so he may need to pull on a national team shirt again.

“We’ve more competition in the same position with new players like Ekaru and Joan who took her position also equally good. We have Lorine Chebet also and other young players coming up very first and the best will make the final team. She (Atuka) will have to work hard also and I believe in her,” said Bitok.

Pipeline Focus

With Kenya Pipeline’s top dog tag in the women league seemingly facing a big threat after failing to recapture the league since losing it in 2018, Atuka who has trained with the Oilers in the past one week, is ready to help get her side back to the top.

“I’ve been out with injuries in the last two playoffs and it’s unfortunate it has happened to me because the predicaments have befallen me during the climax of the last two seasons something I believe has affected my team in winning the titles.

“I’m thankful to the company for standing with me during my recovery period and I’m ready to pay them by helping the team reclaim the league title and the Africa Club Championships,” the soft-spoken middle blocker stated

Pipeline head coach Paul Gitau on his side said Atuka’s recovery is a big boost for him ahead of the top-flight volleyball return scheduled for January 23.

“Atuka is a key player in my team and we’re happy she has come back when the league is about to serve off. She trained with us last week and I was impressed with the quality she has and I know she will hit top form soon.

“I thank the company for standing with Atuka and this has shown how we value our players even during their lowest moments,” Gitau who joined Pipeline last year told Citizen Digital.

Kenya Pipeline opens the new season against returnees Nairobi Water on January 23 at Kenya Pipeline Estate.