Lionesses pre-Olympic camp plans scuttled by COVID-19

Lionesses pre-Olympic camp plans scuttled by COVID-19

@MikeOkinyi in Tokyo, Japan

A week after the first batch of team Kenya athletes landed in Kurume, the national women’s sevens rugby team is yet to hold a full team training session as six members of the squad are still in holding in Tokyo after a passenger on their flight tested positive for coronavirus.

Lionesses Coach Felix Oloo’s plans have been thrown out of the window, and now he has to come up with a new plan of training and having one solid team. Half the team is training in Kurume City.

“They are responding well as compared with the other days, it is getting there. Compared with the other days, I’m impressed with today’s session,” Oloo said at their training base in Kurume adding, “not having a full team is a nightmare they never expected. Both sets of players in Kurume and Tokyo are affected.

“There is that part of mental and tactical. The biggest part affected is the girls’ mental state. We have to be strong for them, we have to be strong for the group that is in Tokyo. It is quite a tricky balance because of having a very young squad with three or four senior players; having three senior players here and one on the other side with the young players is quite tricky. But as a technical department we have to be above board and do what we really need to do or what needs to be done,” he added.

The technical bench is now engaging in online sessions for the group in Tokyo. They have to keep fit and work out in their rooms as they are not allowed to get out just yet.

“We keep engaging them as much as possible. We do have zoom meetings in the evening, the girls do share what they have done on a daily basis, they keep talking among themselves, but I believe as much as the other gals are struggling mentally, there is the aspect of adapting to the environment because most of them are still sleeping as late as 5am in the morning. So it is still quite a challenge,” pointed out the worried coach.

The players confess to having difficulties in sleeping because of the huge six-hour time difference between Japan and Kenya.

““So far so good, the weather is warm but we are still adjusting to the time zone in Japan, which is very difficult. Food is good, we are still polishing our moves and come d day we shall be ready for the games. We get to discuss our emotions through zoom meetings. We also encourage them to do their work outs inside their rooms. We hope that when they are released, we will be at par with them,” says Cynthia Camilla Atieno, one of the players in Kurume.

Health First

Despite the challenges, Oloo is impressed with what is at their disposal in Kurume City.

“We have two beautiful pitches and a well-equipped gym. At the moment only us and Shujaa are using them and we use them on different occasions. When I look at the community around us, they have really welcomed us with one heart and in the spirit of the game we are seeing that solidarity. They are also sympathising with us that we are not full house, but at least we are doing something,” he says.

The residents of Kurume were allowed to watch the Kenya teams in training and their curiosity was satisfied as they were able to access the training venues and ask questions for those who had. They however were not allowed anywhere near the teams.

“For the girls it is good to show what they have and for them most will not watch the Olympics. These are their facilities that they have given to us so as a way of giving back we let them watch our sessions and ask as many questions which they may have had.”

There is a possibility of the players in Tokyo not linking up with the team in Kurume. This will be a big low to the team despite having been prepared for any eventuality.

“I always take things positively. Our philosophy we always prepare for the best and the worst. We just need to manage expectations. If they are released, we will not allow them to come to this side. It will be better to join them there. We have the strength and conditioning coach that is ensuring that they have their sessions as per the programmes we made,” explained the coach.

The laws and rules around COVID are tight, with many teams in Tokyo already complaining of the strict measures put in place. The coach feels this is very necessary.

“For me health always comes first. I would praise them for their strictness. The only part I feel we could have done better, shouldn’t have allowed ourselves as Kenyans to travel with the other passengers because we wouldn’t be in this problem if we hadn’t mixed. They have had more than six tests and none of our girls have turned positive. But simply because of the protocols we signed, we have to see how we can sort it,” he concluded.

One of the youngest players in the team, Christabel Lindo seems unperturbed by the chaos covid rules have thrown into the Olympics preparations.

“Olympics is a privilege for me because I’m just 21 years young. Everything is just ok, no disappointment at all. For my teammates, we are ready for the challenges because we came to work. Physically I feel good, the body has adjusted but the sleeping patterns are still not ok. We are still staying up till very late.”

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