NAIROBI, Jan. 10 (Xinhua) -- Last time Kenya played at the Olympic Games women's volleyball, most of the playing unit now were still toddlers strapped on the backs of their mothers.
But 16 years down the line, Kenya has come back with more wits, style and purpose as they seek to affirm the steady progress of African teams and eye a medal in Tokyo where the summer Olympics run from July 24 to August 9.
Head coach Paul Bitok has been credited with the turnaround of the team. Since his appointment last year after 10 years as head of Rwanda volleyball, the former Kenyan international has only lost once to an African team, Cameroon in the finals of the Africa Cup of Nations. However, he has registered four critical wins against the West Africans and believes the focus should now turn to making a mark on the global scene.
"I'm very proud of the team for their victory over Nigeria. As laid out in our tactical plan, the team went full throttle and executed each play and run with resounding energy. This match, to me, spelt out the character and class we need to display in every game," said Bitok on Friday.
Kenya beat Egypt 3-1 sets in the opening match, next they faced Botswana and dismissed them 3-0 before facing the daunting task to dethrone Rio Olympics Africa representatives Cameroon in a thriller 3-2 sets. The gloss on the win was applied as they cruised past Nigeria in the final match 3-0 to remain unbeaten in the Olympic continental qualifiers.
"After 16 years, the wait is over and Tokyo here we come," said Bitok. "It is unexplainable the feeling of victory, more so at continent level and with a sole ticket to represent the Africa."
The win saw Kenya finish top of the standings with 11 points, one ahead of hosts Cameroon who finished second, followed by Egypt, Nigeria and Botswana in the five-nation qualification tournament played in round-robin format in Yaounde.
Egypt was third with six points after beating bottom-placed Botswana in straight sets (25-11,25-14,25-18) in the second match of the day.
"It is a harder task that lies ahead of us. With the same energy, character and consistency, we are heading to the Olympics. This is not an easy task and we will head straight to preparation for this huge undertaking. As coach, I am after optimal results, we must do better at world stage. For tonight, let's celebrate this victory, tomorrow - back to the drawing board," said Bitok.
The last time kenya played at this stage was in Athens, Greece in 2004 and also in Sydney in 2000. Enditem