Kenyan boxers jet out for Rio Games
Three Kenyan boxers and a similar number of officials were among the first group to leave for Rio Olympic Games on Sunday.
Before departure head coach Patrick Maina said the boys are in top form, fit and rearing to go. He said light flyweight Peter Mungai suffered a minor injury during sparring.
Maina said the boxer slightly hurt his right hand but was now fully recovered. Mungai and welterweight Rayton Okwiri will be making their Olympic debut.
As for bantamweight Benson Gicharu, it will be his second successive appearance after being Kenya’s sole male representative at the 2012 London Games.
Gicharu is also the most exposed pugilist, having taken part in four Olympics qualification events. He started with the International Boxing Association pro-boxing (APB) where the International Olympic Council had allocated 22 slots, two per each weight category.
Gicharu was short-changed as he was announced the winner against his Chinese opponent only for the decision to be revised later without informing him.
The also unsuccessfully tried to book a ticket for the Games during the continental qualification event in Cameroon. Okwiri, though, qualified by wining in his weight category. Okwiri also takes part in the APB circuit.
After Cameroon, Gicharu was part of a squad of six boxers that took part in the last World Olympic qualifier in Baku, Azerbaijan last month none of the Kenyan pugilist qualified. Gicharu booked a slot in Vargas, Venezuela, early this month, where he was unaccompanied.
MOST EXPOSED BOXER
He returned with a gold medal. That makes Gicharu the most exposed boxer in the squad.
Mungai is the odd man out. He is not one of the APB boxers. He chance came in Cameroon where he lost both in the semi-final and also when he met the other loser in the fight to pick the third Olympic qualify in the berth. Mungai benefitted from the South African withdrawal of their boy who had cliched the third light flyweight slot.
Mungai’s only exposure is in the Boxing Association of Kenya (BAK) national league where he meets same opponents most of the time. However, anything is possible in sports and he could be one of the medallists in Brazil.
Commenting on the Games, Prisons boxing team coach, Maurice Maina, who was part of Kenya’s squad for the 1988 Seoul Olympics, said: “Other countries take Olympics very seriously. They are not like Kenya where an Olympic medallist is forgotten just after a few days.”
He added: “In Seoul other teams were taking our videos which they analysed after each game. We did not have those facilities and even now we still use old methods of training our boxers. In the Olympics, one must win decisively.”
The North African countries, Algeria, Morocco and Egypt have become Africa’s power house in boxing.