NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 25 – Kenyan top seed Brian Mutua will lead at team of four players that will represent the country in the table tennis Tokyo Olympic Games Qualifiers at the world singles tournament slated to be hosted in Doha, Qatar from March 14-17.
Mutua will be joined by Josiah Wandera, Doreen Juma and Lydia Setey who have been in training for only one month because of the COVID-19 restrictions that put a halt to all sports activities.
The players have been out for one year, training on their own before resuming group training in January. They have been on two sessions of two hours a day under coach Anthony Mathenge.
The quadruple was picked from the rankings done in the country and they will be buoyed by the experience in the team having trained in Germany, Denmark and France.
The players said they are not going for the qualifiers as underdogs because they have experience of playing in several international tournaments across the globe.
“We are looking for better results because we have gained experience. But it is high time that we show the experience we have been getting from other tournaments. This is a big stage, and fighting to go for a big tournament,” Wandera said.
The coach decried the financial challenges that is the biggest obstacles to not only table tennis, but also many other sports in the country.
“The partnership with Bomba Lotto (for Kenta Charity Sweepstake) will help a lot of players. We lack a lot of things, equipment that is expensive. When the money trickles down, then we will afford this equipment and go to camp early. We are always late because of lack of funds. So, this is an initiative I support and hope that it will help our players,” Mathenge underpinned.
“Our main challenge has been finance. Some of us are students and we had to train, COVID-19 or no COVID-19. You have to spend your own money and yet you don’t have it,” said Doreen.
With all preparations done, the players feel they owe the country something and should perform better than in previous qualifiers.
“My aim is to go to the finals. If I can achieve a finals berth, then that will be good for me because I will feel I have achieved something. We are going to meet international players. We have watched their clips and how they train. We know the kind of competition to expect, and it will all boil down to the day of the match; how mentally and physically prepared you are, and what you can do on that table as per the coach’s instructions,” Wandera underscored.
The number of slots for qualification to Tokyo will be determined the day before the draw is made, depending on the maximum available quota.