Two more Kenyan boxers could be headed to Japan for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics even after the world qualifiers planned for France were called off.
Heavyweight Elly Ajowi and middleweight Elizabeth Akinyi could join Nick Okoth (featherweight) and Christine Ongare (featherweight) to comprise the tentative Tokyo-bound Hit Squad quartet in the Kenyan contingent.
Following the cancellation of the qualifiers, a seeding and rankings system will be used to allocate the remaining slots with the top four boxers in the various categories, both men and women, setting to gain.
Ajowi and Akinyi finished third in their respective categories during the African qualifiers in Senegal last year and chances are high they could secure slots if no further qualifiers are held before the Tokyo event.
By finishing third, the duo had been ruled out of the race to the rescheduled 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games at the Dakar Expo Centre in Senegal.
While confirming the new development, Boxing Federation of Kenya communications director Duncan Kuria said AIBA’s decision was informed by the need to strike a reasonable balance between a bloated schedule and limited time frame.
“There will be no time left for the world qualifiers in France after the European qualifiers were pushed back to June owing to the outbreak of the coronavirus,” said Kuria.
IOC has set aside a total of 13 slots for African boxers out of the 53 that will be contested in Tokyo. The continent is, subsequently, expected to present 8 males and 5 females for the bouts.
Although the highest ranked Kenyan Nick Okoth is placed fourth in his category with 100 points, head coach Musa Benjamin is still optimistic Kenya is still well placed to charge for medals.
“The rankings aren’t necessarily a true reflection of their abilities. It all depends on the events IOC used. In this case, the boxers were ranked according to their performances during the African qualifiers in Senegal,” said Musa.
“Quite a lot has changed since then and there is every possibility our boxers may have improved drastically after the intensive training program we’ve taken them through.”
During the Dakar event, Akinyi was outclassed by top seed Ahbib Oumayma from Morocco in the semi-final of their welterweight bout while Ajowi’s dream was nipped in the bud after crashing 4-1 to 20-year-old Moroccan Youness Baala in the heavyweight contest.
At least eleven Hit Squad members have been training at the national team camp in Lavington, Nairobi with eyes firmly trained on Tokyo but they might just as well watch their dreams go up in smoke following the surprise move by the International Boxing Federation to cancel the world repechage qualifiers.