Rwanda’s top swimmer on how sport can be improved

20-year-old, Alphonsine Agahozo is a swimmer with the Rwanda national team, a journey she says started at the age of three. The two time Olympian talked to Sunday Magazine’s Sharon Kantengwa about her passion for swimming and her plans for her career.

How did you realise your passion for swimming?

Alphonsine Agahozo.

I started out when I was only three, and I have been swimming for the last fifteen years. Swimming was not something I liked but my father, Alphonse Twagirimana, who was a tennis player, endeavoured to teach all his children to be involved in a sport. I didn’t want to swim but he kept insisting.

When was your turning point?

My turning point came at the age of eleven, when I went for a competition in Butare where I became a champion. In 2010, I went for my first international competition, the commonwealth games in India and my timing was good. When I joined high school it became routine for me to train everyday at school and in June 2011 I got scholarship to France where I studied. I have since competed in many championships in China, Russia and turkey and other African countries. I later on got an invitation for the Olympics games which became the best thing that ever happened to me. I finished third which I think wasn’t bad because I became the first Rwandan and the youngest competitor in the 2012 Olympic games.

Do you take pride in this journey?

I am 20 and I have been swimming for 17 years because I love it. The sport is not easy especially because it involves running and working out in the gym to keep fit and gain more energy. It’s not about jumping in the pool. I plan on being a coach later in life because I want to remain in the swimming arena. Ryan Lochte, Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky are my inspiration that keep me moving.

What do you think should be done to make swimming a better sport in Rwanda?

We need very good facilities like swimming pools because most swimmers train in lakes, and we also have few coaches. Perfection takes time especially for us sprinters because every second counts which is why we need these good facilities. We need financial assistance as a federation because we lack money to take care of the players.

Has training at a tender age contributed to the success of your career?

Sport is interesting and can take you places. It doesn’t have to be money all the time but when one involves into a sports activity, it eventually turns out to be a passion and can even take you places. I didn’t start it because I wanted to be a global competitor, although I had a spirit of competition in me.