Kenya’s best chasing Olympic qualification in Doha


Kenya’s best chasing Olympic qualification in Doha
The Kenyan table tennis team players with coach Anthony Juma. (PHOTO/Courtesy)

In Summary

Pressure is on the four players who have been picked from the rankings done in the country. The experience in the team is massive, with the players having trained in Germany, Denmark and France. Coach Anthony Juma decried the financial challenges that is the biggest obstacles to not only table tennis, but also many other sports in the country.

Four Kenya table tennis players will seek to qualify for the Tokyo Olympic games at the world singles qualification tournament in Doha Qatar from March 14-17.

Top Kenyan players Brian Mutua, Josiah Wandera, Doreen Juma and Lydia Setey have been in training for just one month because of the COVID-19 restrictions that put a halt to all sports activities. The players have been out for one year, training on their own before resuming group training in January. They have been on two sessions of two hours a day under coach Anthony Mathenge.

“We are used to more actually because when we used to train at our clubs, we used to train the whole day. So, two trainings a day is manageable,” said Josiah Wandera.

The players feel they are not going for the qualifiers as underdogs because of the experience of playing in several international tournaments across the globe.

“We are looking for better results because we have been saying we have gained experience, we have gained something. But it is high time that we show the experience we have been getting from other tournaments. This is a very big stage, and fighting to go for a very big tournament,” added Wandera.

Coach Anthony Juma says a lot of time was wasted during the coronavirus pandemic lockdown. Pressure is on the four players who have been picked from the rankings done in the country. The experience in the team is massive, with the players having trained in Germany, Denmark and France.

The coach decried the financial challenges that is the biggest obstacles to not only table tennis, but also many other sports in the country. The National Olympic Committee of Kenya has entered into a partnership with the Kenya Charity Sweepstake to raise funds for the Olympic teams and athletes for the next five years.  Coach Juma says this initiative should have started a long time ago.

“The partnership with Bomba Lotto (for Kenta Charity Sweepstake) will help a lot of players. We lack a lot of things, equipment that is very expensive. When the money trickles down, then we will afford this equipment and also go to camp early. We are always late because of lack of money. So this is a initiative I support a hundred percent and hope that it will help our players,” concluded the coach.

“Our main challenge has been financial. Some of us are students and we had to train, covid or no covid. You have to spend your own money and yet you don’t have it,” said Doreen Juma.

With all preparations done, the players feel they owe the country something and should perform better than in previous qualifiers.

Doreen Juma says “My aim is to go to the finals. If I can achieve a finals berth, then that will be good for me because I will feel I have achieved something.”

“we are going to meet international players. We have watched their clips and how they train. We know the kind of competition to expect, and it will all boil down to the day of the match; how mentally and physically prepared you are, and what you can do on that table as per the coach’s instructions,” added Josiah Wandera.

The number of slots for qualification to Tokyo will be determined the day before the draw is made, depending on the maximum available quota. the singles event in Tokyo will have not less than two and not more than eight players per gender.

The draw for the first stage will be done on the 13th of March. The draw for the second stage will be done at the conclusion of the first stage matches.

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