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Viva Malkia! Kenyan queens seal Olympic spot

Malkia Strikers players celebrate their qualification to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics by hoisting head coach Paul Bitok up in the air. PHOTO/FIVB

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 9 – Start sending messages. Organize. Mobilize. The Malkia Strikers are headed to the Olympics!

National women’s volleyball team Malkia Strikers have earned a slot at the Olympic Games for the first time in 16 years after thrashing Nigeria by straight sets (25-15, 25-21, 25-12) in their final qualification match at the Palais Paposy in Yaounde, Cameroon on Thursday evening.

“Once again, we do it! After a 16 year wait, Tokyo here we come. The feeling of victory is un-explainable, more so at continent level. The queens indeed have rightfully earned the title of being an African powerhouse,” Bitok stated after the victory.

He added; “A harder task lies ahead. With the same energy, character and consistency, we are heading to a global stage. This is no easy task. We head straight for preparation for this huge undertaking. As a coach, I am for optimal results. We must do better at the world stage.”

Having won their opening three matches, Malkia just needed to win two sets and they delivered it in style, hitting the West African girls with surgical precision to earn a spot in Tokyo, earning a slot that has slipped through their fingers thrice in a row.

They had beaten Egypt 3-1, demolished Botswana by straight sets and picked the sweetest, and most important victory, a 3-2 win over rivals Cameroon who denied them a ticket to Rio 2016 by beating them in the semi-finals.

Malkia Strikers take on Nigeria in their final Tokyo 2020 Olympics qualifying match in Yaounde, Cameroon. PHOTO/FIVB

And they kept the same momentum against the Nigerians, leading the tie from start to finish to confirm their place in Tokyo.

Paul Bitok’s girls did not want to make any mistakes and drop the pot at the doorstep and they showed it with a powerful start. They led in both technical time outs, stretching out 8-2 at the first and 16-8 at the second before running out 25-15 winners.

The Nigerians however caused a scare in the second set leading 8-7 at the first technical time out, but Bitok’s charges sprung up a response to lead 16-13 at the second.

But the Naija girls kept their pressure, taking the lead again to go 18-17 up prompting Bitok to call for a time out. It proved to be the masterstroke as the girls came back and corrected their mistakes to take the set 25-21.

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Malkia Strikers players celebrate after sealing their place in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. PHOTO/FIVB

Malkia kept their steam in the third set, despite some fight from the Nigerians, and led 8-5 at the first technical time out and 16-9 at the second.

The steam roll gathered pace with victory in sight and the girls pushed the score to pick victory with a 25-12 final set score and dance their way to Tokyo.

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