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Kenya setting sights high

Gaudencia Makokha and Naomie Too have been competing with the best in Myslowice
Myslowice, Poland, June 7, 2013 – Kenya’s beach volleyball players have only been competing in FIVB competitions for a short time, but they have already set themselves some lofty targets.

Currently Kenya have a female team competing in the inaugural FIVB U23 Beach Volleyball World Championships. Gaudencia Makokha and Naomie Too qualified for the tournament after the African Federation’s (CAVB) tournament for north, central and east Africa and the Federation is hoping that lessons can be learned quickly and built on for future success.

“Five years from now I want to see one of our teams finish on the podium,” Kenyan Volleyball Federation president Charles Nyaberi said. “In 2016 we don’t just want to be in Rio (de Janeiro Olympic Games) with genders in both beach volleyball and volleyball, we want a podium finish.

“We know it is ambitious, but we know it is do-able. We have the enthusiasm, we have the talent, but most importantly we have the drive, we have the motivation and with the FIVB and CAVB’s support, which we enjoy, we know we can get there.”

Spreading the word

The Kenyan beach volleyball program is relatively new. Up till about three years ago their beach volleyball players were former volleyball players who were reaching the end of their careers. However, when they failed to achieve any significant results, the Federation began a youth program so that players would come through, who had been schooled in the skills of beach volleyball from a young age.

With the sport spreading to schools, the next aim is to add an U16 team to those that have competed internationally at U23 and U21 level, all the while trying to spread the sport around north and east Africa.

“Uganda is coming up and Rwanda too, but we are hoping to bring in Tanzania, Sudan and Ethiopia so we can have cost-effective competitions right from the grass-roots,” Nyaberi said.

“Sometimes if you have easy and sparsely attended lower-ranked competition, then when you come to a competition like this you get a culture shock, because the competition down there isn’t sufficient.

“When we go back we are going to have a year-long season for beach volleyball and we are going to have programs for beach volleyball.”

Learning from others

One thing that would mark Kenya’s progress is their ability to host an FIVB competition. Later this year, their neighbours Uganda host an Open tournament and Nyaberi is hopeful that in a few years Kenya will be in a position to welcome the world’s best beach volleyball players too.

“We were dreaming that we would be the ones that would host that,” he said. “We would love to host something like that; we have the facilities, two hotels at different ends of Mombasa have both hosted very good CAVB Championships. We have good man power on the ground and we would love FIVB to give us that opportunity.”

Until then though the plan is to keep developing their players and their presence at FIVB age-grade tournaments, while learning from the other teams they encounter along the way.

“Next year we are putting both boys and girls in all the different age-groups; U19, U21, U23 and the teams now will be better prepared,” Nyaberi added.

“Seeing fast hands and my players watching teams, you can see they are really picking up and for us administrators too we are seeing the real thing. This kind of exposure, I cannot express the amount of value it adds.”

Thirty-two teams per gender will take place in the main draw of the inaugural FIVB U23 Beach Volleyball World Championships. The main draw started on June 6 and the tournament runs through until Sunday, June 9 when both the men’s and women’s finals take place.

Myslowice, located 70km from Poland’s ancient capital Krakow, is hosting an FIVB age-group tournament for the third time, after successfully hosting the U19 and U21 version in 2006 and 2007.

It has also regularly hosted stops on the FIVB World Tour – the first tournament was a women-only tournament in 2008, as was the 2011 event. In 2009, 2010 and 2012 it was the men who lit up the sand.


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