Badminton Kenya starts preps for Commonwealth Games qualifiers

Phiona Ssembogo in action during the training session at Burhania sports club in Mombasa. [Omondi Onyango, Standard]

The Kenya national badminton team will kick-start the journey to qualifying for the 2022 Commonwealth Games by taking part in the Uganda International tournament at the end of this month.

The Badminton Kenya Federation held two national trials in January to pick out the players for the qualifiers ahead of the Commonwealth Games set to be held in Birmingham, the United Kingdom from July 28 to August 8 next year.

A total of 18 players have been selected by the federation to play in Uganda, 14 on government sponsorship and four being sponsored by well-wishers.

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 Commonwealth Games next year.

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 very well," he added.

"Our target is not just winning. We are eyeing on qualifying for the Commonwealth Games for the first time as a team of 10 players."

The top female player Mercy Mwethya said she is confident of qualifying after she was awarded the Olympic solidarity scholarship.

"The funding has really helped. I am now able to pay fully for my club membership, training and all preparations I need to develop as a badminton player," she said.

The National Olympic Committee of Kenya and the government of Kenya (NOC-K) has also move to support the national team by providing rubber mats for the badminton team. They previously trade trained on hard surfaces.

"The training time is so 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.

The players were used to plastic shuttles and the switch to the feather shuttles might take some time for them to get used to. The coaches are now working on accuracy and power. [Washington Onyango

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