Lionesses in Tunisia for 2020 Olympic qualifiers

By Clement Wekulo: Saturday, October 12th 2019 at 00:00 GMT +3 | Rugby
The Kenya Lionesses Snaidah Snaidah and Grace Adhiambo (right) during the naming of solid Kenya Lioness squad that will face Ghana in their Olympic Qualifier match next weekend. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Felix Oloo’s charges seek a return to the summer games after debuting in Brazil in 2016.

The Mustapha Ben Jannet stadium in Monastir, Tunisia is a battlefield this weekend as 12 of Africa’s women national rugby Sevens teams compete for the ticket to represent the continent at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

With only one slot reserved for Africa at the Olympic Games, the winner of the two-day showpiece, which will be played today and tomorrow, will book an automatic ticket to Japan.

The silver and bronze medalists will be handed a lifeline by competing in a repecharge tournament in June 2020 alongside teams from Asia, Europe, Oceania and South America.

Kenya’s team, Lionesses, head to the event as defending champions having beaten Uganda in the final of the 2018 edition staged in Botswana.

Lionesses, who are coached by Nakuru RFC trainer Felix Oloo, have seen their chances of qualifying for their second Olympic Games boosted following the decision of the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee not to permit the Lady Blitzboks to qualify directly from the Africa Women’s Sevens.

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The South Africans, who face Zimbabwe, Uganda and Zambia in today’s Pool C fixtures, will not qualify for the Olympic Games even if they emerge victorious at the continental event.

The second ranked team will instead be considered just as was the case in the 2015 Africa Women’s Sevens when South Africa opted to give the Olympic Games a wide berth despite beating the Kenya Lionesses in the final.

“We have so many challenges but we shall put that aside and try to qualify for the Olympic Games.

“That is a big tournament and qualification will have a huge impact to many players,” Lionesses captain Philadelphia Olando said.

The best two in the tournament will also book a slot at the 2020 Hong Kong Sevens where teams will battle for core status in the Women’s World Sevens Series.

Olando, who was part of the Lionesses team that featured at the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil, said the team is brimming with confidence and they will not take chances.

“It is every player’s dream to be an Olympian. If we qualify, it will be a good motivation to the players especially those who were not part of the 2016 team” she said.

The Kenyans have been seeded top in a pool A which has Senegal, Ghana and Botswana. They start their title defense the Ghanaians at 12.50pm before facing Botswana(3.26pm) and Senegal (6pm). 

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