Team Kenya on Wednesday bid an international farewell to long-serving men’s rugby sevens
Like any other Olympics, Tokyo 2020 will give the world one last glimpse of some great talent from around the world.
Team Kenya on Wednesday bid an international farewell to long-serving men’s rugby sevens captain Andrew Noel Amonde who is set to hang his boots.
As the Pacific Irelanders Fiji celebrated their second successive Olympics gold medal after beating New Zealand 27-12 in the final, Kenya sevens - locally known as Shujaa - finished ninth on Amonde’s last ever game for the side when they beat Ireland 22-0 on Wednesday.
Shujaa thus, avenged their shocking 7-12 loss to the Pool C minnows Ireland on Tuesday that saw them knocked out of the main competition at the first hurdle for the second successive Olympics.
Kenya opened with successive defeats to the United States (14-19) and continental rivals South Africa (5-14) and needed to beat the Irish to qualify for the quarters as one of the top two third-placed sides.
That is when disaster struck for the East Africans when they went down two tries to one that left Australia and Canada as the two best third finishers when the preliminary round concluded on Tuesday.
The result left Amonde, 37, who featured in his swansong competition for the East African side disconsolate and in tears.
“The thing is, we did not get it right with our mental [preparations]. When we needed to defend, we did not defend well.
When we needed to keep the ball and score, we did not score,” Amonde rued when speaking to Kenyan reporters in Japan after the Ireland shock.
Things then took an emotional turn when it was put to him that his last chance to win an Olympic medal, a dream that has seen him extend his international career after Kenya finished 11th in Rio 2016, had sunk with defeat to the Irish.
“It’s something we can work on in the future. We will keep building because it is not the end of the world.
To be honest, I would have loved to play in the medal bracket. It’s something that is very hard to take, it’s life, you lose some, you win some,” said Amonde who made his debut for Team Kenya sevens in 2006.
His heartbreak hurt his teammates who promised to give him a fitting send-off on Wednesday in the placement matches.
The team earlier defeated hosts Japan 21-7 to set up this repeat clash against Ireland for a chance for revenge.
Johnstone Olindi scored and converted on the stroke of half time to give Shujaa a 7-0 lead at the interval.
Three unconverted tries from Jacob Ojee, Willy Ambaka and Daniel Taabu secured the 22-0 result in what was Amonde’s final appearance in a Shujaa jersey after a 13-year playing stint.
Last Friday, Amonde was one of the Kenyan athletes chosen to carry the country’s flag during the opening ceremony in what kickstarted his farewell.
His highlight with Shujaa was helping the team to the semi-finals of the 2013 Rugby Sevens World Cup in Moscow, Russia. - Xinhua