Lionesses, Malkia Strikers begin training at Kenyatta University
National Women’s rugby team, the Lionesses and their volleyball counterparts Malkia Strikers have joined residential training camp at the Kenyatta University in preparation for the Olympic Games.
Prior to reporting to the bubble camp, a team of 28 from the Lionesses and an equal number of Malkia Strikers players and technical staff undertook Covid-19 tests where they all returned negative results.
According to the National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOC-K), Malkia Strikers will conduct their training at the Kasarani Indoor Arena for a period of three weeks while the Lionesses will camp for 10 days until they leave for Emirates Invitational 7s in Dubai.
They now join 34 track and field athletes, 6 taekwondo players and 24 men’s rugby players who had already pitched camp at the Kasarani Stadium.
NOC-K is working alongside the government to adopt bubble training in line with the strict requirements contained in the Olympic Games Playbook, particularly in relation to the management of covid-19 before entry into Japan, while in Japan during the Games, and on exiting after the Games.
Malkia Strikers who will be making their maiden appearance at the Summer Games after a 17 year hiatus are also set to train in Brazil and Turkey as they seek to sharpen their arsenal prior to the global fiesta.
Coach Paul Bitok’s charges underwent Covid-19 test on Monday and everyone in the team got negative results. According to Bitok, the women’s squad will also play several friendly matches outside the country as part of preparations.
“We have reported to the camp which started yesterday and we underwent Covid-19 tests and everyone tested negative and our program has started officially today afternoon. We will have coaches from Brazil and FIVB who will assess our team. We are also hopeful that after the assessment we shall be able to travel to Brazil where we shall stay for one month that’s the whole of May, then we shall come back home for a week or two to say hi to our families and get done with the documents that are needed in Japan before Olympics Games kicks off,” said Bitok.
He added: “On 10th June we shall travel to Turkey for international friendly matches for 12 days then we head to Kurume City where Nock signed a contract with them to take all the players who qualified for Olympics Games i.e., athletics, rugby, volleyball and boxing among others for another 15 days before embarking for Olympics Village.
“So basically, our programme is very tight we shall be busy for the next three months having gotten the sponsorship from the FIVB to train outside the country and the friendly matches which was our first time to train outside our country and I think as the head coach such preparations will help Malkia Strikers reach the semi-finals.”
Bitok expressed his satisfaction with the squad he selected and a well-balanced blend of young and experienced players who among them features for the first time in the national team. He added that hopefully in future there will be a new generation that will take Malkia to the 2024 Olympic Games.
“I have 20 players; experienced players and I have also added new players who are playing for Malkia for the first time. I am hopeful that in the coming years we are going to change the players who have stayed in the team for long, so that we get a new generation that will take us to 2024 Olympic games,” Bitok further noted.
Already 90 Kenyan sportsmen and women have qualified for the Tokyo Games slated for July 23- August 8 in Tokyo, Japan with boxers Elizabeth Akinyi and Elly Ajowi the latest entrants in team Kenya.
At the same time, the marathon team selected by Athletics Kenya are also stepping up their training at their respective camps in Eldoret, Ngong, Kaptagat, Iten and Kapsabet.
-Report by Caro Kones and Gilbert Kiprotich