‘Cycling can be Rwanda’s top sport’
Rwanda Cycling Federation (RCF) chairman Aimable Bayingana believes cycling has the potential to be Rwanda’s number sport, but only if the government makes it a priority.
The man, who has led the local cycling governing body since December 2007, is also of the view that in five years’ time, Rwanda can be at the same level with African top nations Eritrea, South Africa and Morocco.
“If we get enough means, cycling can become the top sport in Rwanda, but it also means that government changes its priorities. Its politics at the end of the day, so for any sport to get recognition and become the top (sport), it must be given top priority, like we have football here,” Bayingana told Sunday Sport in an exclusive interview.
He cited the example of Eritrea, where the government, after realising the country had no chance to become a top dog in football, chose to prioritise cycling, and now the results speak for themselves.
Eritrea is the top cycling nation in Africa, but Bayingana thinks Rwanda is fast-making up ground and sooner or later, Rwandan riders would be talked about in the same breath as the Eritreans, South Africans and Moroccans.
He said, “Our target of be at par with Eritrea in the next five years. They are the top (cycling) country in Africa and our target to be able to compete with them favourably.”
“We have talented young riders in the Eastern Province, who if well nurtured, can take Rwandan cycling to the top level in Africa and possibly beyond.”
Tour du Rwanda
Cycling in Rwanda has made remarkable strides in the last five years with the country’s top race, the Tour of Rwanda rising so fast to become the second-best on the continent after the Tropicale Amissi Bongo Tour in Gabon.
As a result, Bayingana was recently elected on the Africa Cycling Confederation (ACC) management committee but he insists: “I was elected to represent the whole of Africa not just Rwanda or a particular region.
“Being a Rwandan, the advantage is that it gives me the opportunity to make contact with people in cycling beyond Africa,” he noted.
He says the main reason he was elected is because of the fast improvement of Tour du Rwanda in the last five years, which before that, wasn’t even recognised by ACC.
In 2010, Rwanda organised, for the first time, the African Championships, which attracted a record 22 countries. This also put the country in the spotlight. Plus, Team Rwanda has been participating in many continental competitions since 2008.
Youth training centre
The RCF boss revealed that as part of the long term plans to make cycling the leading sport in Rwanda, very soon they will open a national youth training centre in Rwamagana in the Eastern Province for the junior riders below the age of 18 years plus women riders.
The centre will be the first of its kind in the region, and Bayingana believes it’s the only way to find replacements for some of the ageing current Team Rwanda riders like Abraham Ruhumuriza and Nathan Byukunsenge among others.
He said: “Everything is in place and anytime the centre will open. We have already secured the premises and are only waiting for the equipment and all the necessary materials to arrive from Europe.”
The centre will be run with support from friends of Rwandan cycling from the UK and US. “We’re also in talks with one French trainer to be in charge of the centre,” he said.
“This centre is the future of our cycling,” Bayingana stated, adding that, “We can’t sit and wait for the government to do everything for us. We need to take the initiative and whatever they (government) give us is just an addition to what we have done for ourselves.”
Contact email: hamza.nkuutu[at]newtimes.co.rw