Kenya’s boxing team, the hit squad has been in training from December 2020. The team is looking to qualify more boxers to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic game in the next qualifiers to be held in June in Paris France.
In the Africa qualifiers in 2020, two boxers, Nick Okoth and Christine Ongare punched their tickets to the games. Christine will be looking at bettering her 2018 Commonwealth games featherweight performance where she won a bronze medal despite a shoulder injury.
Nick Okoth who is the captain of the team, will be making a second appearance at the Olympic games after his debut in 2008 in Beijing, China. He lost in the first round to Arturo Santos Reyes.
“Our preparations this time are quite different. We now have a strength and conditioning coach and a nutritionist, things we have never seen. The strength and conditioning coach has taught us so many things even in punching that we didn’t know. Had we been with him from the beginning, we would have qualified more boxers already,” said Okoth.
For Christine Ongare who hails from the Mathare slums in Nairobi, this is an opportunity to make a mark in the world of boxing after the bronze medal at the commonwealth games in Gold Coast, Australia.
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“This was my dream, to make it to the Olympics. Now I want to leave a lasting legacy.” She added “Training has been fun and intense. We keep learning every day. I’m telling my colleagues that if Nick and I made it, you can also make it. We are pushing them really hard in training because we want to be many in Tokyo.”
Coach Musa Benjamin is a relied man. He says previously there was no money for adequate preparations, leading to poor performances that were no fault of the boxers.
Training venues, equipment and allowances were a big challenge. But now they have a proper training gym with all the facilities, different coaches for all aspects of the game and the boxers are guaranteed allowances, all thanks to the efforts of the National Olympic Committee of Kenya who signed up the first long term partnership with the Kenya Charity Sweepstake.
The partnership sees Kenya Charity Sweepstake give ten percent of revenues go towards supporting Team Kenya, and everyone therefore can be a part of creating positive change for sports in Kenya.
“We are grateful to NOC and their partners for the support. We have never started preparations this early, and now the results will be seen by all. The way we have trained, the way the boxers are ready, they feel that competition was tomorrow and not in June. We will try to give them a few bouts here and there to gauge them. We are sure of qualifying at least five more boxers to the Olympics when we go to Paris,” said coach Musa.
“For 50 years we have raised money and given it back to the public. The more money we raise, the better because we know there are a lot of sports talents in Kenya waiting to be supported. This money we are raising is to support all of them,” says Kenya Charity Sweepstake CEO Yaron Farachi.
This partnership also gives Kenyans a chance to be part and parcel of Team Kenya. By playing the games, part of the revenues will go towards supporting Team Kenya, and everyone therefore can be a part of creating positive change for sports in Kenya.
To assist NOC-K in preparing the teams, Kenya Charity Sweepstake has already given Kshs.10 million so that teams can start serious preparations.
‘’KCS is more than proud to be part of the journey of the Kenyan athletes. We’ll introduce scratch cards that will be based on the Kenyan athlete. We’ll also initiate activities that athletes can take part in to give back to the community. We therefore want to tell Kenyans that as they play Lotto Bomba, they are supporting the community. The money towards this will come from the support of the people,’’ added Farachi.
Among the boxers in training ahead of the qualifiers are middleweight Rayton Okwiri who is a professional boxer, George Cosby Ouma also in middleweight, welterweight Boniface Mugunde, lightweight Victor Odhiambo, Edwin Okong’o in the middleweight, light heavyweight Hezron Maganga, lightweight Joseph Shigali, flyweight Shaffi Bakari, heavyweight Joshua Wasike, Stacy Ayoma, Elizabeth Andiego in middleweight, Elizabeth Akinyi in welterweight, and heavyweight Elly Ajowi.