Review: Which Kenya 7's team traveled to Rio? Boxers' resilience paying dividends

By evelyn watta
Aug 22, 2021
  • Kenya 7s Captain Andrew Amonde and Humprey Kayange during the rugby 7s at the concluded Olympics in Rio.

  • Kenya Lioness at a training session in Rio.

  • Rayton Okwiri during his second round bout at the Olympics.

  • Shehzan Anwar during Archery practice.

Rugby commentators in the World Rugby Sevens World Series have always treated Kenya with caution.

They say: “It depends on which Kenya team turns up on the day.”

This summarizes Kenya 7’s ‘non-appearance’ in Rio. It was a total failure from the opening day with the body language in the match against Great Britain evident.

The intensity and vision of the game lacked. Players appeared clueless and barely made any effort to threaten Great Britain who scored at will.

They forgot to tackle and do the basics and were just happy to ‘participate’ and earn the tag of Olympians.

Handling was pathetic and rather than use the width and expanse of the field ‘which they are known for’, Kenya 7’s were sucked into a physical game to the delight of their opponents.

Players found it difficult to execute simple skills.They were easily bumped off the ball at contact points and had to live on scraps of possession.

School boys errors characterized the teams’ performance at the Deodoro stadium.

Overall, Kenya Sevens were a pale shadow of the team that had a good run during the World Series winning their first event in Singapore which could have signalled their intention. A performance worthy of a team ranked seventh in the Series.

The ‘non-performance’ did not improve against a very beatable New Zealand in the next match and were dealt the final blow by a very resilient Japan, one of the revelations  as rugby returned to the Olympics after 92 years.

Such was Kenya’s ineptitude that they were even unable to beat Spain for a better placing! The only win was against an unheraled Brazil.

Rio was very bad! players coaches, agree

At least the playing unit and technical team all agreed and know that Rio was a ’very bad performance’! Better still, a non-appearance.The travelling fans said as much.

"This is unacceptable," they said.

“We are going to make rearrangements in the team by Safari sevens will have the new changes in place. Of course the board allowing because sometimes there can an impediment. I have suggested a few things in the team, if they go on well that’s good for me,” Benjamin Ayimba promised.

But, what could have gone wrong? Coaches barely change a winning team. Some of the exciting players who dazzled during the Series among them ‘wheels Oyoo’ and Frank Wanyama were left behind.

Their places were taken by ‘recovered’ Oscar Ouma, Biko Adema and Bush Mwale. How about the fielding where Ayimba's choice of Adema infuriated many? Coming from an injury, Adema appeared out of touch and was preferred to Sam Oliech.

Augustine Lugonzo, a natural scrum half was barely given a run yet he distinguished himself in the Series. Was he injured?

Team's conditioning in focus

An insider laid it bare and predicted a total failure in Rio.

The preparations were not adequate especially after the conditioning coach Geoffrey Kimani was ‘axed’ and did not go to the team’s camp in Eldoret.

Conditioning was taken by senior players. Secondly, there are big question marks about the choice of Nandi Bears, a high altitude center. 

The team’s technical bench were advised against Nandi Bears but turned a deaf ear. Ayimba came out in defense saying the team had always trained at the venue.

Then there is a big question mark about whether some of the players had recovered from injuries.

Only the players will know whether they gave their best or not.

On the flip side, the men’s team, it turned out were no better than the women’s team who also finished 11th with a fraction of the resources.

Kenya Lioness equaled men's showing

This was a team the National Olympics Committee of Kenya,NOCK,  fought tooth and nail to be excluded from the Rio trip because they were in for a beating and would embarrass the country.

Kenya Lioness replaced South Africa whose Olympic Association decided against sending the team to Rio.

Kenya's participation was only made possible after KRU explained the requirements by World Rugby who were to run the rugby program in Rio.

NOCK were clueless and even made a blanket announcement that Ayimba would oversee the preparation of the women's team.

The women turned a deaf ear and also recorded only one win against Colombia.

Overall, Kenya Sevens teams did not have the fight in their belly and owe the nation and their fans an apology.They did not travel to Rio!

Boxers improved, judges on the spot

The three Kenyan boxers’ high spirits carried them past the first rounds for Raymond Okwiri and Peter Mungai. Benson Gicharu lost his opening bout to a stronger opponent.

Peter Mungai the flyweight boxer reached the quarter-finals while Okwiri,the Welter category, questioned his results against Moroccan Rabii Mohammed by a unanimous point victory.

His outrage may have been justified after the International Boxing Association sent several referees and judges home, over as a string of contentious decisions after fixing claims.

But then again, Rio also marked the launch of the new scoring system that would would ensure that the judges score every accurate punch.It largely favoured professional boxers who were already accustomed to the system.

The Olympic exposure was baptism by fire for lone archer Shehzana Anwar, weightlifter James Omondi and even the walking trio.

Rio has awakened their desire to develop, compete with the best and improve professionally.