2017-07-27 15:40:00 CET
Makokha/Too have come to Vienna to compete, not just to participate.
Gaudencia Makokha (24) is happy, she and partner Naomi Too (25) will represent Kenya at the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships 2017 presented by A1 for the first time. Both athletes competed at the under 23 World Championships 2013 which took place in Poland - they ranked 25th, but playing a senior event would be quite different. “It’s the first time for Kenya and thus a great opportunity which gives us international exposure. We are able to compete with world class players” explains Gaudencia, “I am happy to be in one of the first teams that are able represent Kenya in a senior championship.”
Kenya is known more for individual sports such as athletics. “Beach volleyball is no competitive sport in Africa” says Sammy Mulinge knowingly. He is Makokha/Too’s coach. “It’s a great step for our players to fight at the world championships” says Mulinge, “it is a milestone and I hope it will open doors for other young girls in Kenya to play beach volleyball.”
Hoping for support from the government
There is no beach volleyball national event series circuit in Kenya at the moment, “that’s why indoor volleyball has the upper hand, because of the league championship” says Gaudencia. Gaudencia still plays indoor for the national team as well as for her club. It is not possible to live from beach volleyball in Kenya. “We hope that we will have a beach circuit in Kenya in the future, that’s what the federation is working on.”
Kenya’s coastal city Mombasa offers players a natural practice area on the beach, but since most players live in Nairobi, Mulinge would like to build up a beach volleyball training center there. But he needs help from the government. “Our government did not support the sport over the last decade” explains Mulinge.
Mulinge is optimistic about the next election in Kenya, it takes place directly after the world championships on 8 August, “maybe things will change then, and the new government will understand that beach volleyball is a great sport”. “We just hope that whoever wins will take sports in Kenya to the next level” says Gaudencia.
FIVB opened beach volleyball to Africa
In 2011, the FIVB implemented the Continental Cup qualifiers. It presented the first opportunity for teams from Africa to qualify for the Olympic Games and the World Championships without having to have previously participated in the FIVB World Tour. FIVB president, Ary S. Graça F° wanted to open up the sport in order to increase the popularity of beach volleyball around the world. That meant a big step for Africa. “There was funding available for the African federation and the first Continental Cup in 2011” explains Mulinge. Since then, the number of African countries at international competitions has been increasing: nine teams from seven countries in Africa will participate at the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships 2017 presented by A1 in Vienna, that’s more than ever before (there were just two teams in 2011). “People in Africa got to know the sport and learned that beach volleyball is easier to run than indoor volleyball. You just need two players therefore it’s easier to come on board” – Mulinge on the sports development.
“Although Kenya has the groundwork in place, implementation is a problem” said Mulinge. The under 19 indoor team qualified for the World Championships 2014 in Portugal for example, but couldn’t go due to lack of finances. “We do not have much money” explains Mulinge. That is also why he is very happy that Makokha/Too can attend the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships 2017 presented by A1 in Vienna even though he is not able to join them. Only the two players and the head of delegation is flying to Vienna. “For me the most important thing is that the players are there” says Mulinge, “they will learn a lot at in Vienna.”
Meeting world champions in first match
On Saturday, Makokha/Too will start the tournament off by meeting the reigning world champion Agatha Bednarczuk and her new partner Eduarda Santos Lisboa (reigning U19 and U21 World Champion). “We know they are the best in the world but that doesn’t mean that we will lose easily” says Gaudencia “they also started at a certain stage before they became world champions. We will be there not to participate but to compete.”
Makokha/Too practice twice a day with the ball but also go swimming and to the gym. Furthermore, both work for the Kenya Pipeline Company. They have no sponsors nor funding to compete in the Swatch Major Series. “But we hope to play in the FIVB World Tour in future” concludes Gaudencia. Maybe, participating in the world championships could help with that.
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