Kenya women’s volleyball team libero Aggripina Kundu has cautioned their more experienced Pool A opponents at the Tokyo Olympics not to underestimate the African side when competition serves off on July 25.
Kundu, 28, is one of the more experienced players in a side brimming with upcoming talent, and having been part of the national set-up since 2014, the libero believes the current squad is better placed to register their best ever Olympics performance.
Kenya registered successive 11th-placed finishes at Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004 in their previous appearances at the Olympic Games, and on their return to the showpiece event, Kundu and her teammates are keen on progressing further than before.
The record nine-time African champions are in Pool A alongside hosts Japan, South Korea, the Dominican Republic, Serbia and Brazil, with the top four qualifying for the quarterfinals.
In measures aimed at minimizing the risk of the entire team being quarantined upon arrival in Japan, the east African side traveled to Tokyo in two batches, arriving there on July 8 and 9 before flying to their pre-Olympics camp in Kurume City.
“We did a lot of strength and conditioning in the gym to gain the much-needed power so that when we strike, the opponent feels the power of [national corn meal dish] ugali,” Kundu said from the team’s camp in Kurume on Friday.
Since April, the team has been trained by a team of Brazilian coaches seconded to the country by world governing body FIVB, and their impact with the side has impressed the seasoned libero.
The South Americans introduced the Catapult GPS system to monitor the performance of the Kenyan players for the first time, and Kundu believes the innovation has aided their quest to post their best ever Olympics performance.
“With this technology, everyone is given what to work on from the analysis. It has really helped us,” she added.
Kundu is among the Kenyan players forced to train from home during the lockdown imposed following the COVID-19 outbreak last year.
However, the libero, who plays for local outfit Kenya Pipeline, noted they have made up for missing out on training and game time ahead of the Olympics, thanks to the technological devices introduced by the Brazilians.
“All these teams are good. Whether it is Serbia or Brazil or the Dominican Republic, anyone who does not take us seriously will be in for a rude shock,” Kundu said of their Pool A opponents.
To make the Kenyans feel at home, their Kurume City hosts have gone out of their way to prepare them ugali, a national staple enjoyed across the East African nation.
“I’m so grateful, never thought I would find ugali in Japan. This time, I’m pleasantly surprised,” the libero gushed.