This week, Kenyan boxers will take the first step towards qualifying for the Olympic 2020 Games when they compete in the African qualifiers in Senegal. When they take to the ring in Dakar on Thursday, the five women and eight men will be fighting for 37 slots reserved for the continent in Tokyo Olympic.
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A tough struggle is projected, what with a reduced quota for Africa at the quadrennial Games this year. Just three boxers in each of the six categories will qualify for the Tokyo Olympic alongside two each from heavyweight and super heavyweight categories.
The 13-man contingent will also be aiming to redeem the country’s image in boxing. In 1988, the ‘Hit Squad’ made history in Seoul, South Korea, when welterweight Robert Wangila became the first African to win the Olympic boxing gold.
Chris Sande also returned home with the middleweight bronze medal. Kenya has since not won an Olympic boxing medal. The three Kenyan boxers in 2016 Olympic in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, returned home empty-handed.
The current team boasts experienced boxers, welterweight Rayton Okwiri and flyweight Shaffi Bakari, having won silver medals at the 2019 African Games in Morocco. Okwiri also represented Kenya at the Rio Olympic. The Kenya boxing team’s month-long preparations for the African contestants in Nairobi was tracked by a high-altitude camp in Nanyuki.
“We have trained well for the past month. Now those who will get the chance to make the team to Senegal must endeavor to make Kenya satisfied and ensure as boxers, we fly the Kenyan flag high in Tokyo,” the team captains said.
Under veteran coach Musa Benjamin, Kenya has a good chance of sending more boxers to the Tokyo Olympic. The squad must build on improvements made at the 2019 African Games, where Kenya won five medals.
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