Ayimba: We went to Rio too early to perform well

Kenya's Humphrey Kayange is tackled by Brazil's Felipe Sancery in the men’s rugby sevens ...
Kenya's Humphrey Kayange is tackled by Brazil's Felipe Sancery in the men’s rugby sevens match between Brazil and Kenya during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Deodoro Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 11, 2016. Pascal GUYOT / AFP

Kenya Sevens Head Coach Benjamin Ayimba has blamed the team’s early arrival in Brazil for their dismal performance at the 2016 Summer Olympics where they won only one of their five matches, finishing in a disappointing 11th.

The two-time Rugby Sevens World Cup semi finalists departed for the quadrennial showpiece on July 23, 16 days before their first Pool C match against Great Britain with expectations high.

This was after a superb season that saw them clinch the Main Cup for the first time in history, after winning the Singapore 7s besides collecting Kenya’s second highest points tally when they finished with 98.

The former Impala RFC player was speaking to Citizen Digital at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport when the team arrived from Rio to a lukewarm reception.

“The preparations at camp were a 100 percent, it’s just that we went in a little too early to Rio. We would have probably been better suited travelling to the Games a few days before our matches began.

“It was a concern but nothing could have been done because the plans had already been made,” the tactician, on his second stint with the team, revealed.

Shujaa lost all their pool C matches, going down 7-31 to Great Britain and 28-5 to 2013 World champions New Zealand before outsiders Japan ended their hopes of a podium finish, condemning them to a 31-7 defeat.

Things went downhill from there with the series regulars slumping to a humiliating 12-14 defeat to non-core team Spain in the 9/10 place playoff before eventually registering their only win, overcoming the hosts 24-0 to settle for 11th place at par with their less accomplished female counterparts.

“We didn’t perform very well; of course we had expected to do a lot better. Things didn’t turn out as we had planned so it’s very unfortunate but again we live to fight another day. We got a whole season with another 12 tournaments coming so we have a lot to look forward to,” Ayimba asserted.

His sentiments were echoed by Shujaa vice-captain Collins Injera who insisted that it was up to the players as professionals to cope with whatever was thrown at them.

“Everybody has their own opinion; some might say we went there too early that’s why we didn’t perform well but for us competing in that professional environment is a matter of adjusting.

“We lacked consistency, we were bullied in the contact area and we didn’t quite get into the flow and settle into the game,” the sevens star, who became the all time series top scorer in the London 7s leg cruising past the previous record of 230 set by Argentina’s Santiago Gomez Cora, offered.

The 2009 Soya Sportsman of the Year was however, optimistic lessons learnt at the Games would aid the team as they prepare to better last season’s performance in the HSBC World Series.

“Being part of the Olympics team was a new feeling. On field, our performances could have been better and we are not happy about it but there’s always room for improvement so for us we have to just go back to the drawing board.

“The experience was definitely an eye opener but right now we need to rest for a while and when we come back we will try and shift our focus to the 2016/2017 series and maybe we can improve on last year’s performances,” the player, who touched down twice at the games, underscored.

The team was roundly criticized on social media by fans in the build up to the Games with most pointing out their heavy presence on the Internet as a lack of seriousness while others faulted Ayimba’s team selection.

Emerging stars like Nelson Oyoo of Top Fry Nakuru and Harlequins’ Frank Wanyama who had been exemplary in the last three legs of the Series were overlooked for the likes of Biko Adema and Oscar Ouma who had been nursing injuries heading up to the Games.

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Story By Eric Kagunda
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