Women’s volleyball enjoyed tremendous progress in 2014 and 2015. But the latter was the period that the game basked in sunshine. In June 2015, the Kenya women first won the Africa Championship, beating Algeria 3-0 (25-17, 25-21, 25-20) in the final on home court at the Safaricom Indoor Arena.
The win, Kenya’s ninth title, booked them a place in the FIVB World Cup in Japan in August 2015.
Kenya then embarked on the 2015 World Grand Prix Division III campaign, with matches taking place in Mexico, Algeria and Australia. They pulled a major upset by beating Peru in the final match in Canberra, Australia to gain promotion to Division II.
There were high expectations that 2014 would be an improved year for both club and Kenya national teams after the thrilling conclusion of the domestic competition in 2013.
It was a fruitful year, witnessing the historic first medal (bronze) won by Kenya for the first time when Eagle Wings finished third out 12 countries in the Africa Club Championship in Morocco in November 2013. United States international University-Africa (USIU-A) took fifth place in the same competition.
Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) defeated USIU-A in the finals play-offs to lift the Kenya women’s Premier League title in 2013 as Co-operative Bank beat the KPA men’s side to defend their men’s Premier League title. The 2014 season ended in February 2015 when, at last, USIU-A women’s team turned the tables on KPA, giving the varsity girls their first title.
In the play-off series’ decider, USIU-A won the match emphatically — 81-50 — at the Nyayo Stadium gymnasium. It was time for the Flames to celebrate their first tince inception in 1987. The Flames won 3-1 in the best-of-five series under the tutelege of George Mayienga while KPA were under Anthony Ojukwu. Hilda Indasi of USIU-A was crowned the 2014/15 Most Valuable Player (MVP) in the women’s Premier League.
In boxing, a sport that Kenya once dominated in the region and registered performances at Olympic Games that made the world notice, but in which they have struggled lately, stylish Kenya Prisons fighter, Rayton Okwiri (welterweight), 28, and Benson Gicharu, a bantamweight, were some of the medal hopes.
In December, Okwiri became one of the earliest Kenyan sportsmen to earn a place for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Okwiri achieved the feat when he defeated the hitherto unbeaten Russian Andrey Zamkovoy in the third and last phase of the AIBA pre-ranking competition round (a sort of money Grand Prix for amateur boxers) in Baku, Azerbaijan.
Through the “Grand Prix” two finalists in each of the competition’s 10 weights would qualify for the Olympics. Okwiri earned his place by virtue of reaching the welterweight final. Zamkovoy was a 2012 London Olympics bronze medallist while Okwiri had failed to qualify for London where Kenya’s sole entrant was Gicharu.
The 2014 season opened with excitement, with Kenya-born Chris Froome having closed the previous year with the over-the-moon celebrations after winning the Tour de France in July. Froome signed on a new contract with Sky in 2014 to be the nucleus of the team.