Malkia Strikers itching to start Tokyo Olympics preparations
Kenya volleyball women team libero Elizabeth Wanyama reacts during their training session at Kasarani Indoor Arena on August 24, 2018. Photo/Stafford Ondego

Coach Bitok is upbeat the team will pick up even as they wait for funds from Sports Ministry — through National Olympic Committee of Kenya — to help in their preparation

National women volleyball team, Malkia Strikers, are itching to start preparation for 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

Paul Bitok, the national team coach, is however worried over the lack of activity since sporting events were stopped in March.

But the coach is still upbeat even as they are expecting funds from the Sports Ministry, through National Olympic Committee of Kenya, to help in their preparation.

“We have had a hard time since we qualified for Olympic Games. The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted our programmes. But I hope we will pick it up. We will soon start training probably the end of this month.

“We will start intense training in January. We expect to prepare well for six months before taking on Japan in our first Olympic match on July 25. It’s no easy task,” Bitok said.

Malkia Strikers itching to start Tokyo Olympics preparations
Malkia Strikers’ Sharon Chepchumba is attended to by team Doctor Sarah Karongo during their training at Kasarani ahead of the Africa 2020 Olympic Games qualifiers to be held in Cameroon. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

At the moment, Bitok — who also served as national team coach for Rwanda — said, he is guiding his budding volleyballers at his home in Simat, Uasin Gishu County and he keeps an eye on what the national team players are doing.

He has been monitoring what his Malkia Strikers are doing as they train individually awaiting government go ahead for the resumption of contact sport.

The tactician has been keeping up to date via various platforms including WhatsApp where he shares training programmes with the players.

“Although I am engaged in farming, I take time off to train young players at home. This is the only way we can nurture talent,” he said

Bitok, a former Kenyan international, has turned his village in to a production line of volleyball stars.

From General Service Unit’s (GSU) Cornelius Kiplagat to a legion of famous volleyballers, Simat stands out as the seed bed of volleyballers.

Simat has produced Silvano Sawe (GSU), Samson Keter (formerly Posta)  Kipkurui Maiyo (Prisons) Elsheba Jepkemboi (Prisons) and Lydia Maiyo (Prisons), the sister of Philip Maiyo who has played for a number of clubs outside the country.

Rose Magoi (Nairobi Water), Monica Keter (Ulinzi) and William Bitok, formerly of Posta and now coach of Bungoma County team, are also from the Simat fortress.

Bitok has also launched a sports complex in the area but the Covid-19 disruptions dealt him a huge blow.

“The Japanese sponsor left after the outbreak of coronavirus. We are hopeful normalcy shall be restored soon,” he said.

The Paul Bitok Foundation Sports Complex was meant to help identify and nurture talent in volleyball and athletics.

Bitok, who was voted as 2012 Soya awards community hero for his contribution to sports development, said the community is endowed with huge sporting talent, which, if identified and nurtured, would improve living standards of the locals.

The Paul Bitok Foundation offers partial scholarships to the needy in the society, but it is expected that athletes would get full scholarships once the complex is completed.

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