'We'll win a match at the Olympics, Mr president'
- Malkia Strikers are expected to start preparations for the Games in April with the technical bench having planned training camps in Turkey and Japan.
President Uhuru Kenyatta on Friday hosted the national women's volleyball team at Mama Ngina Drive Waterfront, Mombasa following their successful Tokyo Olympics qualification campaign in Cameroon.
Malkia Strikers emerged winners of the qualification tournament with 11 points to get the sole ticket that was reserved for Africa at the Summer Games slated for July 24 to August 9.
It's the third time that the volleyball queens will be representing the country at the Olympics having graced the 2000 and 2004 editions in Sydney and Athens respectively.
Kenya has never won a match at the Olympics and Uhuru has challenged Paul Bitok and his charges to make history in this year's Games.
"It's a big joy and pleasure to be here to celebrate your success. This success is a direct result of your hard work. To us you have already you have won. You have already delivered the cake. The rest will just be the cream on the cake," said Uhuru.
"We are here to encourage you that as you continue with the journey that you are still up there. It's not about winning but about giving your best. Even if you don't win, we want people to say 'did you see those Kenyan girls and did you see how they play'?" he added.
"We are going to support you, we are going to give you all that is humanly possible from our end because when this team performs, Kenya performs, " assured Uhuru, who gave the team a token of Sh1 million.
Bitok thanked the government for their continued support to the team since he took over last August and asked the president to review government policies so that team sports can be appreciated better.
"Since the last time we were here, things have really improved with the Ministry paying players in good time. This is the kind of motivation that has helped me build a winning team. We are grateful to the government for their support," said Bitok.
Skipper Mercy Moim echoed Bitok's sentiments and promised Uhuru to return to Kenya with at least one win from the biggest stage of world volleyball.
"We are happy with the level of transparency at the ministry. Nowadays we get our allowances in our accounts and we don't have to worry about it. This has really boosted our morale," said Moim. "We have now come of age as a team and we are confident of winning two matches at the Olympics. We hope to get the best preparations because we can deliver."
Kenya Volleyball Federation president Waithaka Kioni revealed he had received a roadmap for the Olympics from the technical bench and asked the government to support their preparations.
"The coaches have already handed in a program which shows how serious they are about the Olympics. They want to have a camp in Europe so that they can represent the continent well. This is the volleyball only team from Africa that will be at the Olympics and we are happy that the ministry is already treating them in a special way. We look forward to more support during the preparation phase, " said Kioni.
Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohammed reiterated her ministry's commitment towards ensuring the girls get good preparations for the quadrennial competition.
"We are proud of these girls and what they have achieved over the years. As a ministry, we promise give them the best because they are capable of winning a medal at the Olympics," said Amina.
Malkia Strikers are expected to start preparations for the Games in April with the technical bench having planned training camps in Turkey and Japan.