Commonwealth Games, rugby World Cup 7s, Afcon qualifiers battle grounds for Kenya

Tuesday January 2 2018

Kenya's Hellen Onsando Obiri wins the final of the women's 5000m at the 2017 IAAF World Championships at the London Stadium in London on August 13, 2017. PHOTO | BEN STANSALL | AFP

Kenya's Hellen Onsando Obiri wins the final of the women's 5000m at the 2017 IAAF World Championships at the London Stadium in London on August 13, 2017. PHOTO | BEN STANSALL | AFP  

By DAVID KWALIMWA
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From the Commonwealth Games in Australia, to the Rugby Sevens World Cup in the USA and World Women volleyball Championship set for Japan, Kenyan athletes are, yet again, set to travel around the globe intent on scribbling success stories this year.

Local fans are assured of a roller coaster experience of high octane sporting action with their beloved national teams and stars in attendance.

  Kenya’s success at international sporting events has been well documented with athletics standing out.

 That’s why middle and long distance athletes from around the world will have to be at their very best to contain Team Kenya at the 21st edition of the Commonwealth Games set for Gold Coast in Australia come April.

Already, National Olympic Committee of Kenya chairman Paul Tergat, himself a former world beating long distance runner, is bullish about the country’s prospects for more success Down Under.

BETTER PERFORMANCE

Tergat, who assumed office last year, said in an interview with the Nation Sports last year, that he expects Kenya to better the performance attained at Glasgow Games  four years ago. Then, Kenya finished ninth out of 71 participating teams, garnering 10 gold, 10 silver and 5 bronze medals.

“Most of the athletes we are banking on are in good shape and I can assure you we will be gunning for podium finishes in most of the races. That momentum we picked from the Olympics and World Championships in the past few years is still on,” said Tergat.

Kenya is, as usual, expected to dominate in the middle and long distance races but should expect some stiff competition from arch rival Ethiopia and USA that are making big progress in track and road running.

Renowned world beaters Hellen Obiri, David Obiri, Eliud Kipchoge, Eunice Sum and Faith Chepngetich are among the athletes to watch out for.

Kenya Sevens aka Shujaa will be appearing in their fifth straight Rugby World Cup Sevens.

SAN FRANCISCO

The 2018 event, involving 24 teams, will be held in San Francisco, USA from July 20 to 22.

The side, coached by ex-international 15s and 7s player Innocent Simiyu blew hot and cold in last season’s World Rugby Sevens Series.

The boys will have to really up their ante to stand a chance of replicating the semi-final finish attained at World Cup in Moscow four years ago.

Barring injuries and other unforeseen circumstances, usual suspects Collins Injera, captain Andrew Amonde, Oscar Ayodi, Bruce Mwale, Oscar Ouma and Frank Wanyama will spearhead Kenya’s charge in America. They, however have heavyweights of the game New Zealand, Fiji and South Africa standing on their way.

Kenya’s women volleyball team, christened Malkia Strikers, will also be seeking a better show at the World Championship in Japan in September.

This tournament will be staged over three weeks, in the cities of Kobe, Nagoya, Osaka, Yokohama, Sapporo and Hamamatsu.

MALKIA STRIKERS

The Malkia Strikers have star players in the name of  Brackides Agala, Janet Wanja, Jane Wacu, captain Mercy Moim and Monica Biama.

The Kenyan volleyball queens  boasts a near perfect record on the continental front, but have time and again struggled make a mark on the global stage.

In cricket, Kenya are one of the four African teams representing the continent at the ICC  Under-19 World Cup in New Zealand.

The Kenyan lads under coach Jimmy Kamande flew out of Nairobi last week for New Zealand via Sydney, Australia where they are scheduled to play some friendly matches against local sides

In football, Kenya’s Harambee Stars have a lot on their plate after missing out on competing as hosts of this year’s African Nations Championships. The tournament was moved to  Morocco from Kenya because of lack of preparedness in Nairobi.

The heightened political situation in the country for the better part of 2017 also didn’t help matters.

STARS

Instead, Harambee Stars will now concentrate on the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.

Kenya face Ghana and Ethiopia from September in crucial fixtures that could point to whether the team has what it takes to go to Cameroon - where the next edition will be held - or is just making the qualifiers numbers, Stars players led by Tottenham Hotspurs midfielder Victor Wanyama, Spain-based forward Michael Olunga, China-based Ayub Timbe and Zesco United’s Jesse Were among other, are buoyed by the monetary rewards made by Deputy President William Ruto should they qualify.

  Popular football clubs AFC Leopards and Gor Mahia are set to compete in continental assignments be virtue of winning the GOtv Shield and SportPesa Premier League respectively.

Ingwe will play in the Caf Confederation Cup whilst K’Ogalo will try their luck in the Champions League.

Uncertainty has, however, gripped the future of these two clubs and the national team, in the wake of an impending withdrawal sponsorship withdrawal by their chief benefactor SportPesa.

TAXATION

The betting firm has already issued notice to that effect, with its chief executive Ronald Karauri stating they cannot withstand the increased taxation rates by the government capped at 35 per cent.

Also set to be affected are Kenyan Premier League and second tier side club Nakuru All Stars who all have partnership deals with SportPesa.

Kenya may not have qualified by the Fifa World Cup in Russia in June-July will be keenly followed here.

One of the most watches events in globally, the Fifa World Cup will bring together 32 of the best national football teams in the world including defending champions Germany, world football aristocrats Brazil, Spain, Ronaldo’s Portugal and England, whose top league is a favourite staple of Kenyan television sports viewers.

WORLD CUP

The world will await with bated breath to see what the sport’s megastars Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Lionel Messi (Argentine), Neymar Junior (Brazil), Kylian Mbappe (France, Saidio Mane (Senegal), Mohammed Salah (Egypt) amongst other have to offer at its grandest stage.  Africa will again be represented by five countries namely Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia.

The International Association of Athletics Federations Diamond League, an annual series featuring elite athletes, is expected to be dominated by Kenyan’s at least in the middle to long distance races.

What a prospective season for Kenya teams and sports people. Let the games begin!