Lionesses confident of roaring in Brazil


Kenya Lioness rugby 7s head coach Mike Shamiah (C), Director of Squads, Oscar Maingi (L) ...
Kenya Lioness rugby 7s head coach Mike Shamiah (C), Director of Squads, Oscar Maingi (L) and captain Kate Abilla address the media at the RFUEA grounds on March 30, 2016. The team will do duty in France this weekend. Photo/Oliver Ananda/www.sportpicha.com

Kenya Women’s Sevens coach Mike Shamiah believes his charges are mentally ready for the 2016 Olympics and is confident they stand a strong chance of progressing to the knock out round.

The 15-strong contingent jetted out to Rio on Sunday for what will be their maiden appearance at the Olympics with a modest target of finishing among the top 8 in the 12 team competition.

“We have been pushing the girls really hard, this time we put a little more emphasis on strength and conditioning and tried to focus on skill development. It’s tough but eventually it will work in their favour,” the tactician told Citizen Digital.

“The squad has had ample time to prepare and the technical support we got at the camp will go a long way to help us mentally and physically for Rio. There are no injury concerns and the girls are really excited because it’s the first time women’s rugby is being played at the Olympics so we hope we it will reflect in their performances at the games,” he added.

The Bungoma High alumnus succeeded Kevin Wambua as head coach on May 28, 2015 and was not new to the Lioness setup as he had enjoyed a stint as their Strength and Conditioning Coach.

His expectations going into the tournament are simple, to qualify for next year’s HSBC series or maybe go the distance.

“If we make it past the round robin stage, we will qualify for next year’s series and that will cap the amazing season we’ve had. It’s achievable if we set our minds to it,” he pointed out.

The top two teams from each pool, plus the two best third-placed across the pools automatically progress to the quarter-finals.

They are counting on the experience they gained in finishing second at Roma 7s and their first World Series appearance at the season ending Paris 7s will inspire them past the preliminary round.

Lioness Captain, Kate Abilla, has been integral in the team’s gradual rise and is convinced they have what it takes to battle with the top teams.

“We have been in Nandi for the past three weeks training with the men’s squad and we have learnt a lot from the guys. We’ve also been able to work with their technical bench and they’ve assisted us greatly in our preparations,” the Mwamba RFC scrum half underscored.

“The morale is high and we are convinced the hard work we’ve put in at the camp will reflect when we take to the pitch early next month,” she added.

KCB duo of Philadelphia Olando and Janet Okello who were the 2015 KRU Women’s 10s League Most Valuable Player and top scorer are other key players in the squad.

Lionesses qualified for the Summer Games after South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee withdrew their team from Rio 2016 citing irregularities in selection having beaten Kenya in the finals of the 2015 Rugby Africa Women’s Sevens Championships they hosted.

 

Kenya was placed in Pool B where they will be taking on 2015-2016 HSBC women’s series runners up New Zealand, Spain and France.

The rugby competition takes place over six days with the women contending first from August 6 to 8 at the Deodoro Stadium. Rio marks the first time rugby sevens has appeared at the Olympics, although the 15-a-side game featured at the 1924 Games.

Lioness Squad:

Janet Owino, Catherine Abilla (Captain), Philadelphia Otieno, Linet Moraa, Janet Okello (Assistant Captain), Sheila Kajira, Camelline Oyuayo, Celestine Masinde, Doreen Remour, Stacy Awuor, Irene Otieno, Rachel Mbogo

Management

Mike Shamiah (Coach), Sara Atieno (Team Manager), Ben Mahinda (Physiotherapist)

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Story By Eric Kagunda
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