•The Qatar World Masters will be held in January 2021 as an opportunity to earn tickets to the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics
•Kenya has missed out on Olympics qualifiers in Budapest Grand Slam and Dakar Africa Open in the last two months
•Kenya Judo Federation currently visiting clubs and homes to access judokas' fitness levels
Kenyan judokas have been urged to intensify their training in readiness for the Tokyo Olympics qualifiers at the Qatar World Masters in January next year.
Kenya Judo Federation (KJF) president Shadrack Maluki said competition for tickets to Tokyo will be cut-throat hence the need to be technically and physically prepared.
"Every judoka will want to qualify for the Olympics. January is not that far and so we encourage each and everyone to continue their training despite the restrictions of Covid-19," Maluki said.
Maluki has set a target of four Kenyans —two male and two females — for a place in Tokyo. He, however, lamented the effect of Covid-19 on judo events.
"We have had to cancel virtually every competition in the country owing to Covid-19 and Ministry of Health regulations. Right now, we are focusing on judokas training alone," he said.
The pandemic has forced the local judo team out of this weekend's Dakar Africa Open, which would have earned them extra points towards securing qualification to the 36th edition of the Olympics.
It was the second setback after Kenya missed out on the Budapest Grand Slam tournament in October. Similarly, Valery Manirakiza, president of East Africa Judo Association, admitted that Covid-19 has affected fitness levels of judokas in the region.
"We were supposed to have judo competitions in the zone but we could not do so because of the pandemic. The lack of competition has affected the morale of the athletes and their motivation to train," Manirakiza, who doubles up as the Burundi Judo Federation president, said.
He expressed optimism that the continent will hold another championship next year so that judokas from the region can make up for missed points. Maluki assured all prospective judo Olympians of the federation's support in their training.
"Our deputy president Duncan Chemiryo and treasurer David Busolo have a programme to monitor training and fitness levels of the judokas. They are going around homes and clubs to ensure they maintain their fitness levels within the next two months," he said.
He urged sportspersons not to despair but focus on improving their craft despite the dour state of affairs. "As part of NOC-K, we have been talking to various sportspersons and encouraging them to continue working hard in their various disciplines. The pandemic will come and go," Maluki said.