The Kenyan volleyball fraternity is in mourning following the loss of Gilbert "Fabisch" Ohanya after a long battle with prostate cancer.
Ohanya, a former national team coach, breathed his last at 12.30am on Saturday at his Ugunja home. He was 69.
"He died shortly after midnight after struggling with cancer since 2016. It's a big loss for us as a family since he was just about to celebrate his 70th birthday," his wife, Anastacia, told Nation Sport.
Kenya Volleyball Federation (KVF) president Waithaka Kioni led the volleyball fraternity in remembering the icon who guided Malkia Strikers to her first Olympics appearance in 2000.
"This is tragic news because Ohanya has made tremendous contribution to the development of volleyball in the country as a coach. He mentored many female players and his passion for volleyball was unrivalled. I remember one time we were in Morocco and he guided Posta to a win against a top Egyptian club. He went round the entire court on his knees and raising his hands up thanking God for the win. It was such a dramatic scene but it showed how he loved the game," said Kioni.
His deputy Charles Nyaberi also hailed Ohanya as a mentor of the current crop of coaches.
"Many coaches of the current generation passed through his hands. He really helped to shape their coaching careers. His love for volleyball showed when he retired from coaching at the high level and went to his rural home where he led Ambira High School to the nationals on several occasions," offered Nyaberi.
Moses Epoloto, head of KVF's Coaching Commission, described Ohanya as a "mentor" who left a legacy having achieved considerable success with both the men and women national teams.
"Ohanya is a legend of coaching. It's not easy to coach both men and women and succeed in both areas but Ohanya did it easily. That is a legacy he left. He was also a father figure to his players and that's why they called him guka. One thing I really picked from him is that the morale of a team begins with the coach. He was always a joyful on the touchline and knew how to motivate his team," said Epoloto.
Nicknamed Fabisch after the late Reinhardt Fabisch who transformed the national men football team, Harambee Stars, to a decent side in the late 90s, Ohanya had a lasting impact on any player he coached. Margaret Indakhala, a member of the squad that qualified for the Sydney Olympics, remembered Ohanya as a coach who took time to understand his players both on and off the pitch.
"He was a special coach, a very lively character who knew how to inspire his team. When we qualified for the 2000 Olympics he played a very big role right from training to the qualification matches. He made us believe we could do it, that's why people nicknamed him the Fabisch of volleyball," Indakhala, who is now the Kenya Pipeline coach, told Nation Sport.
"He coached me both at club level (now defunct Telkom) and the national team and up to date I borrow a lot from his tactics and coaching skills," added Indakhala.