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Kenya Lionesses savour Olympic Games qualification

Last updated 9 months ago | By Clement Wekulo

Celestine Masinde tackles Portia Woodman of New Zealand during the 2016 Olympics Games in Brazil. [Reuters]

Kenya Lionesses head coach Felix Oloo was full of praise for his charges after guiding the national women’s rugby Sevens team to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Despite losing 15-14 to perennial rivals South Africa in the final of the Africa Sevens-cum-Olympic qualifiers in Tunisia at the weekend, Lionesses bagged the ticket to represent the continent in the quadrennial event since the South African Sports Confederation and Olympics Committee decided not to send their team to the summer games via the regional qualifiers.

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In their loss to South Africa in the title decider, Kenya managed two converted tries while the Lady Blitzboks scored three five-pointers, an outcome which saw the Philadelphia Orlando-captained Lionesses relinquish the trophy they won in Botswana last year.

By virtue of reaching the final of the continental competition, both Kenya and South Africa qualified for the 2020 Hong Kong Sevens where teams will battle for core status in the World Women’s Sevens Series.

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“It was an amazing experience. I am happy for the young girls who were able to express themselves. I am quite impressed with the performance of my players,” Oloo told Rugby Africa following their loss to the South Africans.

“We really wanted to win this tournament but things didn’t go our way.

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“We knew they (South Africa) were ready for us since they knew how we were playing so we changed our structure and played heads up rugby. Things could have been better for us but I am happy with my players nonetheless,” said Oloo, who is also the Nakuru RFC and national women’s 15s team trainer.

The East Africans are set to return to the summer games after making their debut in Brazil in 2016 when Sevens rugby was incorporated in the Olympic Games.

Tunisia and Madagascar, who finished third and fourth respectively at the Africa Women’s Sevens, will have a second chance to qualify for the Olympics by competing in a repechage tournament in June next year.

New Zealand, USA, Canada and Australia are assured of competing at the Olympic Games after finishing in the top four during the 2018-19 Women’s Sevens Series while Japan automatically qualify as the host nation.

Great Britain and Brazil won their respective qualifying tournaments in Europe and South America thus booking slots at next year’s Olympics.