For a moment, allow me to put the athletics affairs aside and address the important topic about Kenya and the Olympic Games.
Yes, I know the year has started well for athletics and everything is running super. So far, we have held four cross country meetings and the next stop will be Discovery Cross Country on January 26.
However, allow me to wear my other hat of Team Kenya general manager to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Saying I am excited about Malkia Strikers’ feat would be an understatement.
I’m actually over the moon that the team is steadily on course to qualify for the Olympic Games. For starters, we beat hosts Cameroon 3-2 in our third match and we are set to play Nigeria today in a match where we are starting as favourites.
This is happening after 16 years, considering that the Kenyan volleyball team last played at the Olympic Games in 2004 in Athens, Greece.
The fact that we now have three team sports already qualified for the Olympics (I say qualified since even if the Malkia Strikers fall to Nigeria, which is highly unlikely, mathematically we are well-placed) is an achievement in itself and we need to be proud of ourselves as a country. Remember, Rugby Sevens teams (Shujaa and Lionesses) have already booked their tickets to Tokyo.
This is a first for Kenya and we hope other disciplines will follow suit.
I know Cameroon will not be able to recover from the loss to Malkia Strikers in a long time because they really wanted that ticket, having represented Africa at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
I know things will never be the same for most Kenyan players because the Olympic Games is an opening to play professionally around the globe. However, I want to warn them it doesn’t come easy and they will have to work even harder.
How I wish the Malkia Strikers can play build-up matches with top nations in readiness for the event. It is important to note that Cameroon and Egypt, both of whom Kenya beat at the qualifiers, had camped in Europe in the build-up to the continental games. What if the Kenyans had a similar opportunity to train in cities where facilities and sports science are more advanced?
I know the rugby teams are lucky because they are involved in the World Rugby Series.
The biggest honour the Kenyan government can give Malkia Strikers is to ensure they prepare adequately for the Olympic Games, to make them competitive and not just participants, even though the spirit of the global bonanza is participation.
This would include camping in areas with favourable facilities, including personnel qualified in sports science, in cities similar to Tokyo in terms of climate.
They should also be facilitated to play build-up matches against top volleyball nations instead of flooding social media with ineffective congratulatory messages.