Standing 1.9 meters tall donning Kenya’s colourful ceremonial kit, clasping his hands, and waiting patiently, Andrew Amonde knew the enormous task before him.
The towering Shujaa skipper, appointed Team Kenya’s overall captain at the Tokyo Olympics, had been beckoned to receive the Kenyan flag at State House upon the invitation of President Uhuru Kenyatta.
It was 11.45 am, the athletes were talking in hushed tones as was indeed everyone awaiting the Head of State to make his way for the ceremonial flag hand-over event.
Some 2 hours 20 minutes later, Mr Kenyatta strode down the steps of his official residence and found the sportsmen and women standing 2m apart from each other in order to adhere to the social distancing rules.
They paraded the uniforms that will be worn by the team in Tokyo before the official flag handover.
President Uhuru’s aides soon gestured at Amonde to walk towards him to receive the flag as Team Captain for the Kenyan contingent of 113 athletes who carry the country’s hopes at the Olympics and Paralympics games.
“On my own behalf, on behalf of the government, on behalf of the people of Kenya, I wish each and every one of you success as you head to Tokyo and we all look forward to welcoming you back home and celebrating your wins at the 2020 Olympics,” President Kenyatta said.
It was a clarion call to the team travelling to the land of the rising sun. Japan was hosting the Olympics for the second time, coincidentally it was the same city where the country’s Olympic medal haul started 57 years ago when Wilson Kiprugut Chumo bagged bronze in the Men’s 800m final.
Amonde who plays as a flanker for KCB will serve two roles in Japan; will lead the entire Kenyan contingent of 113 athletes and captaining the National rugby sevens team.
“It means a lot to be flagged off by the president and a big responsibility to represent all the Kenyans. I don’t feel any pressure because it goes down to every individual player although now besides the Shujaa job Kenyans are also looking at me to ensure we perform better in this edition than in 2016,” said Amonde.
In Japan, the current team will be looking to better the performance of their predecessors who produced Kenya’s best ever outing at the Olympics when they bagged a total 13 medals in the summer of 2016 in Rio.
Shujaa Redemption Bid
The Kenya sevens team featured at the 2016 Olympics but left crestfallen after finishing 11th out of the 12 participating teams failing to progress past the group stages.
Amonde, who is also a television producer, is coy about the team’s ambitions in the Japanese capital.
“The main focus is to get everything right this time around and see if we can go past the first stage. We’ve prepared well and the rest we’re leaving it to God,” said the 37-year-old KCB forward.
Shujaa are grouped with 2016 Bronze medalist South Africa, the United States of America and the Republic of Ireland who qualified recently through the repechage route.
The entire Kenyan contingent will be seeking to inspire some semblance of hope back home after a tumultuous year that has been upended by the Covid-19 pandemic which has seen thousands losing their lives, many being hospitalized and livelihoods being destroyed.
Their performance in Tokyo could echo the late Samuel Wanjiru’s memorable victory at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing when his performance offered the country some respite after the 2007/2008 post-election violence.
The build-up to this year’s games has been shrouded by a cloud of uncertainty. At one point, there were concerns that the games that were postponed once could be canceled altogether due to the evolving nature of the pandemic.
However, organizers of the Tokyo Games have remained steadfast that the Olympics must go on. Kenya is considered an athletics powerhouse and their performance in the track and field will be the main focus.
Some of the Kenyan athletes headed to Tokyo have thrown down the gauntlet by setting world-leading times in different races around the world.
Replicating the same in Japan at the world’s biggest sporting event would definitely be their crowning moment. Tokyo beckons.
For Citizen TV updates
Join @citizentvke Telegram channel
Video Of The Day: KEMRI scientists examine safety of anti-malarial drugs in first trimester of pregnancy