NAIROBI, Feb. 19 (Xinhua) — Nine-time African women volleyball champions Kenya are raring to give a good account of themselves this summer when the team returns to the Olympics Games for a third time in Tokyo.

The continental women volleyball powerhouse, known affectionately back home as the Malkia Strikers, earned their Tokyo 2020 Olympics ticket by finishing second at the 2019 African Championships to mark their return to the global sporting jamboree for the first time since Athens 2004.

With Egypt and Cameroon shattering their African dominance in recent years, Kenya are determined to improve on their 11th placing at both the Athens 2004 and Sydney 2000 Games when the women’s volleyball competition spikes off in the deferred Tokyo 2020 Games start on July 24 in Japan.

Seasoned captain Mercy Moim underlined their target for the Olympics in Nairobi as the team steps up preparations for the Games in the remaining five months after their program was interrupted by the global pandemic last year.

“Most of the time people say we are going simply because we have won in Africa. This time we have to make a mark because preparation will be a good five months. When a team prepares well, it performs well, which requires funds,” Moim said in Nairobi on Friday.

The Malkia Strikers are scheduled to enter residential training at the beginning of March with local competitions fixture program tweaked to accommodate the requirements of the national side’s preparations for the Olympics.

Moim, a left attacker in the team, declared that Kenya will not go to Japan to make up the numbers on this occasion, underlining their mission to make an impact at Tokyo 2020 and give African women’s volleyball the lift it needs.

The team is scheduled to train for 15 days before breaking for the Africa Club Championship before reporting back for training in April for the last leg of preparations for the Olympic Games.

Malkia Strikers will also be among the teams that will go to Kurume City in Japan for three weeks training and acclimatization ahead of the Olympic Games.

“We will go there for international friendly matches and training. We will start with the Japanese national team in Kurume. This will give us an indication of where we are and what we need to do ahead of the Olympics,” Moim added.

Despite their qualification for the Tokyo 2020 Games, Kenya’s squad contains aging stars who have nailed down a place in the team for most of the past decade, a factor that has been blamed on the slowing prowess of the nine-time African champions.

Moim, however, noted the Malkia Striker’s chances will not be dimmed by the presence of seasoned campaigners in the squad when they land in Japan.

“We have young players in the team, so there is no excuse for an old squad. The opponents don’t know these players. Someone like me, I have played for a long time, but we have some secret weapons in the young players who are unknown,” the skipper emphasized.

Moim, however, lamented limited funding from the Kenya Volleyball Federation was hampering their preparations, welcoming the financial input of the local National Olympics Committee which she noted had eased some of the concerns.