NAIROBI, Aug. 13 (Xinhua) — The Kenyan delegation for the African Games will depart in batches depending on their competition schedule to avoid burning out.
Team Kenya chief executive officer Charles Nyaberi said that the teams have all received their training and competition kit and will work hard to ruffle the pecking order at the African Games, which saw Egypt, South Africa, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Algeria dominate the last games in Brazzaville, the Republic of the Congo in 2015.
The badminton, judo, shooting, table tennis and beach volleyball teams were the first batch of the Kenyan contingent to depart on Tuesday, buoyant about their chances to widen the medal scope for a country that has solely relied on athletics for a majority of its medal haul.
In 2015 track and field yielded Kenya’s five of the six gold medals with women’s volleyball providing the other one.
“Kenya eyes to dominate the table tennis and be a big country like China. We have to start by winning at the African Games against Nigeria and Egypt,” said Kenya Table Tennis Association president Andrew Mudibo on Tuesday in Nairobi.
Kenya has entered a huge contingent of 290 athletes in at least 21 disciplines. Wrestling, swimming, Taekwondo, weightlifting, archery, lawn tennis, kayak and karate will leave on Saturday while athletics team will be the last to depart on Aug. 23.
Triathlon head coach Harrison Mwangi said Africa Zone Five champion Hanifa Said, 24, and Abdalla Mansour Abdallah will anchor the team and hope they will influence younger players to deliver good performances.
However, he warned that rivals from South Africa and Egypt have superior players.
“South Africa and Egypt have made it their turf and we must find a way to exploit their chinks. Kenya can deliver at the continental stage and win medals,” said Mwangi.
However, for volleyball coach Paul Bitok, guiding the team to retain the title in Rabat, Morocco will be an added bonus.
Bitok won bronze with the Kenyan team at the Johannesburg 1999 African Games as a player and now eyes a medal at the same event as coach almost two decades down the line.
“I was away in Rwanda and have secured success there. But now I am with the Kenya team and we will have to work hard to deny Cameroon, Nigeria and host Morocco the gold,” said Bitok.
“I have just been with the girls for one week and I can tell you things won’t be easy in Rabat,” Bitok warned.
“The players are in tip-top shape but what I have been working on is their reception which was their undoing in Cairo.” Bitok has replaced outgoing Italian tactician Shailen Ramdoo.
Kenyan women volleyball team hopes to use the African Games as a preparatory tournament ahead of the World Cup in Japan due September before the Africa qualifying tournament for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games due January 2020.