NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 8 – The last time Kenya won a gold medal outside track and field events in the Olympics was in 1988 when the late Robert Wangila won the welterweight boxing title in Seoul, South Korea.
Now 28 years later, the Kenya rugby sevens team is hoping to repeat that same feat when they start their 2016 Olympic Games campaign in Rio with a tough encounter against Great Britain as Rugby Sevens makes a return to the Olympic fold since the 1924 games in Paris.
Head coach Benjamin Ayimba, who guided the team to their first ever World Series Main Cup title in Singapore, is aware of the tough task ahead as his charges aim to get out of Group C that also has heavy weights New Zealand and Japan.
“We are chasing the gold. That has been our song for last season. We’ve gone through the Rugby Sevens World Series season knowing that’s our goal for the Olympics and we are confident in it,” Ayimba said.
Shujaa will be buoyed by a good season in the World Rugby Sevens Series where they finished 7th on 98 points, their second highest points haul in a single season.
Great Britain, one of the medal prospects will be a hard nut for Kenya to crack with the side having combined the crème de la crème from England, Scotland and Wales.
Last season, Kenya managed a single win in eight meetings of the three teams, a 17-14 win over Scotland in the Sydney leg.
Shujaa picked two draws, against Scotland in Singapore (12-12) and England in Cape Town (19-19).
The other five matches ended in losses; 19-12 and 12-10 against England and Wales respectively in Dubai, 33-0 to England in Hong Kong, 24-12 to Scotland and 21-19 to Wales in London.
Despite the record that gives the British an edge, Kenya remain optimistic they can do well and deputy captain Collins Injera, one of the players to watch in Rio believes the boys will rise to the occasion.
“Ours is just to focus on the first game against Great Britain. We know what to do because we have played them before. Our target is to start on a high and build momentum as we progress,” Injera said.
“Kenya has been known to win medals in track and field and for us to win Kenya gold in other disciplines apart from track and field will be a great honor,” the all-time leading World Series try scorer noted.
After opening their campaign against Great Britain, Shujaa will tackle New Zealand in the second Group C match before finishing their preliminary round against Japan on Wednesday.
Kenya Sevens Group fixtures
Tuesday: Kenya v Great Britain (5pm),
Kenya v New Zealand (10:30pm)
Wednesday: Kenya v Japan (5pm)