NAIROBI, July 6 (Xinhua) — Kenya’s Malkia Strikers, the country’s national women volleyball team, will be the first batch of athletes to depart for Japan on Thursday ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.

The women’s volleyball team, coached by veteran Paul Bitok, will jet out buoyant to stamp their authority in the games on their third time asking.

Kenya was last represented in volleyball during the 2004 Athens Games, with their first show having come four years earlier at the 2000 Sydney Games. They missed the Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio 2016 editions.

“The first athletes to depart for Japan will be the Malkia Strikers, who leave for a pre-Olympics camp at Kurume City this Thursday,” Paul Tergat, the National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOC-K) said in Nairobi Tuesday.

Kenya is yet to win a single set at the Olympic stage, let alone win a match. However, Bitok is optimistic they will claim a few scalps in the Tokyo Games.

“I am happy with the squad going to the Tokyo Olympics. We have a realistic chance to win matches and have a shot at the medals. However, our first focus will be to navigate through the group stage. We will use the same model we have been using with Brazilian tacticians even beyond Tokyo 2020,” said Bitok on Tuesday in Nairobi.

Kenya will face off with reigning European champions and Rio 2016 silver medalists Serbia and two-time Olympic champions Brazil, hosts Japan, South Korea and the Dominican Republic in Pool A. China, United States, Russia, Italy, Argentina and Turkey make up Pool B.

Meanwhile, Kenyan duo in beach volleyball Gaudencia Makokha and Brackcides Khadambi will launch their title campaign in Pool D of the women’s tournament alongside defending champions Brazil, the United States and Latvia.

Beach volleyball, one of the most followed sports in the history of the Olympics, will have 24 divided into six pools of four teams.

Kenya will represent Africa in the women’s category, while Morocco will play in the men’s tournament, after their emerged top in the Africa Continental Cup qualifiers in Agadir, Morocco last month