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Boxers assured on Olympics qualifiers

Last updated 2 months ago | By Ben Ahenda

Kenya's Christine Ongare (right) in action against Northern Ireland's Carly McNaul at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. [AFP]

Boxers selected in Kisumu last season in a provisional squad for the African Olympic qualifiers in Dakar, Senegal have been urged to continue keeping fit ahead of the second selection for Olympics qualifiers.

The boxers will be hoping to secure an Olympic slot at the qualifiers set for Paris, France after only two Kenyans booked tickets to the Tokyo Olympic Games next year after the Africa event in Senegal.

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The two who booked Olympic tickets are 2015 African Boxing Championships lightweight gold medalist Nick Okoth of Kenya Defence Forces and 2018 Commonwealth Games flyweight bronze medalist Christine Ongare of Kenya Police.

Head coach Musa Benjamin said all 26 boxers in the initial provisional squad have equal chances of being selected for the global qualifiers at a date to be announced later by International Olympic Committee (IOC) this year.

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The global qualifiers were initially slated for last month but were postponed due to the coronavirus disruption.

While asking the boxers to be strict and cautious in their individual training sessions by observing the Ministry of Health guidelines, the tactician said the final squad will be selected on merit.

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"It will not matter whether one took part in the African Olympic qualifiers or not but all what we need is complete fitness," Benjamin told Standard Sports.

While saying they have not lost hope on securing more slots at the global qualifiers, Benjamin said boxers will continue to train on their own until the government lifts the restrictions that are in place.

"We are still eyeing more slots in the Tokyo Olympics after we failed to reach our target numbers in Dakar," he said.

"Therefore, we are determined to send a second team to France in order to enhance our chances of getting more slots at the global qualifiers and win more medals in Japan next year," Benjamin said.

Okoth and Ongare are training separately in their respective bases under instruction from a panel of five coaches led by Benjamin and his assistant David Munuhe.

"We always communicate to them (the two boxers) on phone guiding them on what to do and what not to do in the course of their training since they know their strengths and weaknesses," Benjamin said.

And in readiness for the Paris Championships, he called on all boxers in the provisional squad to continue training despite the challenges the sport is facing at the moment.

In March, another assistant coach John Waweru said they were looking at possibilities of sending six boxers to the Paris Qualifiers if they get the nod from the National Olympic Committee-Kenya and the government.

"What they need is to improve on their fitness so that anytime we are called upon to make a selection, it'll ease our work," Waweru said.