Kenya: Breath of Fresh Air for Unchained Lionesses

Tokyo — With the unbridled agility of erstwhile caged Lionesses being released into the wild, Kenya's women's rugby team players tasted freedom Thursday afternoon for the first time in their 14-day quarantine period, holding a refreshing evening training session at Tsatumi in Tokyo.

The six players and two officials had been restricted to their hotel rooms for 10 days so far after a Covid-19 case was reported on their flight into Tokyo from Doha.

Covid-19 regulations in Japan demand that anyone in close proximity of a positive case be quarantined for 14 days, fate that befell the members of the Kenya Lionesses squad along with other passengers.

Upon appeals from Team Kenya officials, led by chef de mission Waithaka Kioni, Games organisers finally agreed to release the players into the Olympic Village on Wednesday where they are operating still in isolation, living in single quarters as the rest of the athletes and officials operate in shared accommodation.

The Lionesses complete the 14-day period next week, just in time for their opening match of the Olympic rugby tournament.

“We’ve not been out to see the sun or see how it feels to train in the humidity of Tokyo,” team manager Camilyne Oyuayo explained.

“The feeling today is one of the best feelings that any athlete, official or technical manager could love to have in the team.

“The support from everyone at home, including our lovely CS who is also our patron, has given us a lot of strength... we tried to improvise everything that we could (in confinement) at least to try and keep up with the rest of the team because we assured Kenyans that we were going to put the best foot forward.”

The rest of the Lionesses squad has been training at Team Kenya’s pre-Olympics camp in Kurume City, Fukuoka Prefecture, connecting with their quarantined teammates via Zoom, something assistant captain Sheila Chajira says kept them going.

The quarantined squad has Chajira, Diana Awino, Vivian Akumu, Leah Wambui, Judith Auma and Stella Nelima.

Besides team manager Oyuayo, the team’s strength and conditioning coach Samuel Kimotho has also been in isolation and led Thursday’s training session that lasted just over one hour, having started at 5pm, local time.

“We are back to the field and we thank God for it,” Chajira said.

“We are very excited to get back to the field and feel the air around and to make sure we catch up with our teammates in Kurume.

“We were training in the hotel, but to run outside feels much, much better than we thought it could be.”

She noted that the Zoom meetings helped them catch up well with their teammates in Kurume and that their strength and conditioning coach was quite helpful in advising them on food and fluids intake.

“We are very grateful for the support we received from Kenyans, the messages and shout outs… these motivated us and we are really going to play for our country.

“We came to do a job here and we are going to finish that job.”

The rest of the team in Kurume, is comprised of head coach Felix Oloo and seven players, namely Philadelphia Olando (captain), Cynthia Camilla, Christabel Lindo, Grace Adhiambo, Sinaida Aura, Janet Okello and Sarah Brigid Oluche.

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