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Learning key in Japan for Malkia, says Bitok

Malkia Strikers head coach Paul Bitok with the team during the Africa Games in Morocco. PHOTO/CAVB

NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 11 – Malkia Strikers head coach Paul Bitok says his main focus at the FIVB Women’s Volleyball World Cup in Japan will be to learn as much as possible ahead of next year’s Africa Olympic qualifiers.

The team of 14 leaves the country on Wednesday evening for Japan where they will face the world’s best teams in a round robin tournament that serves off on Saturday, Kenya taking on the USA in Hamamatsu.

“We know that we are going to face some very tough and seasoned teams and we can’t lie to ourselves that we are going there to compete for the title. The target for me is to show an improved game and try to expose as many players as possible to the international stage,” Bitok told Capital Sports.

The tactician has been asked to continue his tenure as the Malkia coach after guiding the team to defending their Africa Games title in Rabat, Morocco where he had been asked to take charge on interim basis.

Kenya Volleyball Federation boss Waithaka Kioni says they believe Bitok will steer the team in the right direction basing on what they saw in Rabat.

Malkia Strikers players pose for a photo during the Africa Games in Rabat, Morocco. PHOTO/CAVB

“The results are visible for everyone to see and it was basically a straight-forward decision. We have not offered him a contract tied down with years but he will be in charge of the national team for now,” Kioni stated.

Bitok does not see himself taking charge of the team for long as he is more focused on getting a management position in the executive, one that will enable him set out plans for the wider game especially at grassroots.

But before he makes a decision on which seat he will go for during the elections, Bitok will be focused on helping the team make a return to the Olympics after narrowly missing out on Rio 2016 following a semi-final loss to Cameroon.

“The games we are going to play in Japan are tough because those countries are the best in the world. They will offer us a very good platform to prepare for the qualifiers. Our target now is on the Olympic qualifiers and in all our preparations in Japan, that is what we are looking at,” the tactician further pointed out.

In his final team of 14, Bitok has included youngsters like Emmaculate Chemtai, Caroline Sirengo and Lorine Chebet adding on to the impressive Sharon Chepchumba who has firmed up a place in the team after only making her debut this year.

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Bitok says the most important thing for him is the future and he says in his training sessions he has already started incorporating youngsters to come in and learn from the other experienced lot, most of who are in the sunset years of their careers.

Bitok meanwhile says the girls are ready to give their best in Japan, saying their performance at the Africa Games has been an inspiration in their training.

Malkia Strikers at the Africa Games in Morocco

“We have prepared very well and the motivation from winning in Morocco has added some good morale in camp. We have worked on all areas especially on reception and back court defending and I am pleased with the way the girls have responded,” Bitok noted.

After playing the USA, Malkia will take on Netherlands on Sunday, before facing Serbia, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Japan and China.

Travelling team

Jane Wacu, Janet Wanja, Agripina Kundu, Elizabeth Wanyama, Emmaculate Chemtai, Violet Makuto, Sharon Chepchumba, Leonida Kasaya, Noel Murambi, Mercy Moim, Edith Wisa, Trizah Atuka, Carolyne Sirengo, Lorine Chebet.

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