The Lionesses, as the volleyball players from Cameroon are known, booked their first ticket ever to the Olympic Games after a thrilling five-setter. This Tuesday evening, in Yaoundé, Cameroon’s capital, in front of 5,400 fans that packed the Palais des Sports, they beat Egypt 3-2 (25-14, 25-27, 21-25, 25-23, 15-7), in the final of the 2016 African Women’s Olympic Qualifier.
Part of the crowd went to the court right after the end of the 2h20min battle, to celebrate with the players, in a huge party, including some drums, Cameroon style.
Opposite Nana Tchoudjang was the best scorer for the Cameroonians, with 21 points, followed by middle blocker Stephanie Fotoso, with 19. Egyptian Aya El Shami, who scored 22, topped the game.
On Monday, in the semifinals, Egypt upset favourite Kenya in a two and half hour match by 3-2 (25-22, 24-26, 16-15, 25-20, 19-17), while the locals had an easy ride versus Algeria, winning in straight sets (25-20, 25-17, 25-17).
This is the fifth time an African women’s team participates at the women’s volleyball tournament in the Olympics. Kenya qualified for Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004. Algeria took part in Beijing 2008 and London 2012. The African men’s squads have played since Munich 1972.
The Cameroonian girls should not offer much resistance to their opponents in August at Maracanãzinho Arena, in Rio de Janeiro. Same way their men’s team, they are known for their cheerful celebration after rallies and their constant joy, aspects that caught the attention of the media during the 2014 Women’s World Championship, in Italy.
A dream come true
In an interview to CRTV, a local station, Nana Tchoudjang said this an old dream that finally came true. Cameroon’s coach, Jean René Akono, mentioned his squad fighting spirit and emphasized the qualities of the other semifinalists.
In the third place match, Kenya beat Algeria 3-0 (25-19, 25-21, 26-24). Other three teams – Botswana, Tunisia and Uganda – participated in this qualifier in Yaoundé.
Egypt and Kenya will join Colombia and Puerto Rico for a qualifier that will give an Olympic spot, later in May, in a place to be defined – Colombian and Rican federations made a bid to host the tournament. Puerto Rico is the favourite team to grab the berth.
Seven teams have secured their place in Rio: Brazil (host country), USA, Russia, China, Serbia, Argentina and Cameroon. There are five remaining spots. Besides the tournament aforementioned, Japan will host, in late May, the World Olympic Qualifier, when four tickets will be given. The three best teams plus the best Asian will qualify to Rio 2016. The participants are Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Kazakhstan, Italy, Netherlands, Dominican Republic and Peru.