NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 12 – The Kenya badminton team will be out to seek 2022 Commonwealth Games qualification when they compete in the Uganda International tournament at the end of February.
The Kenya badminton Federation picked a team of 18 players who will fly the Kenyan flag after holding two competitions in December.
However, the team is facing financial constraints and the Kenya Badminton Federation chairman, Peter Muchiri has urged the National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOC-K) to extend the sponsorship received from the Kenya Charity Sweepstake.
“I have seen that Olympic Committee of Kenya got a big sponsor in Kenya Charity Sweepstake to help Olympic teams qualify for the Olympic games. So, I think we need the support to be extended to the federations. We have players with very great potential in the federations who can do much better given the supports,” Muchiri outlined.
Out of the18 players, 14 are on government sponsorship while four are being sponsored by well-wishers.
The Federation boss added that they are expecting to perform better than in the previous editions of the Uganda international tournament.
The target in Uganda for the 14 players is at least a semi finals appearance in all categories.
Unfortunately, the men’s doubles in which Kenya won a medal in the last edition has been cancelled, however, four disciplines remain including the men singles, the women singles, the women doubles and the mixed doubles.
The Uganda tournament is important for Kenya as it is the first tournament towards qualification for the 2022 Commonwealth Games to be hosted in Birmingham.
There are nine tournaments needed to gather points for the Commonwealth Games qualification, Interestingly, this is the first time that players are going to Uganda as a national team.
“Previously players have sponsored themselves to go to Uganda with no targets. But this time around there are clear targets set by the Federation and every tournament that we participate in, every game that we play, Kenya will earn points. We have to be in the top 14 among the Commonwealth Countries for us to qualify, and we have a good chance to be top four in Africa,” the chairman added.
The top female player Mercy Mwethya stands a chance to qualify for the Olympics after she was awarded the Olympic solidarity scholarship and has attended tournaments across the world in the last one year.
She has collected enough points and she needs to participate in the Uganda international tournament as well as the South African international tournament to increase her points. These are the last two tournaments available before the Olympic games.
“At the end of it all, we will now get to see who are the top ladies in the singles and these are the ones who will qualify for the Olympic games,” added Muchiri.
Mercy’s preparations have been going well especially with the support from the Olympic solidarity fund.
“The funding has really helped and I am now able to pay fully for my membership for example for the club (at Sikh Union) and not worry about it, and I’m also able to pay for the gym and the gym instructors, so it has really changed a lot when it comes to my training and traveling as well,” said Mercy.
Support for the Badminton Federation has come from the National Olympic Committee of Kenya and the government of Kenya.
NOC-K procured rubber mats for the badminton team. They previously trade trained on hard surfaces.
According to team captain John Wanyoike, the Uganda international tournament comes at the right time since the players have been idle for almost a year.
“This particular tournament we have been training for it since 2019. So, the whole of 2019 we have been training, we went there in early February 2020 and we performed well. Our target is not just winning. We are eyeing on qualifying for the commonwealth games for the first time as a team of ten players.”
For the first time, the Kenya badminton Federation has appointed three coaches for a period of three years.
The head coach is John Odhiambo assisted by Martin Kanyange and Alfred Muthomi.
The coaches say the players are in good shape, but the only challenge could be the preparation time for the tournament.
“The training time is short. We have like a week and some days, but basically we need a minimum of four weeks to prepare for such a tournament,” said head coach John Odhiambo.
On the challenges the team is facing, the biggest is in equipment. Professional rackets cost between Sh20,000 and Sh30,000.
They only serve up to a maximum of four months and a minimum of two months. One tube has 12 shuttle corks that cost between Sh2500 to Sh3000.
That one tube is only enough for two players for a session of one hour. In a full session of three hours, you need three tubes. There are 16 players, meaning every training session costs between Sh60,000 to Sh72,000 in shuttle corks only.