Someone help athletes in their London Games bid

It’s exactly 173 days to this year’s Olympic Games which kick off Friday, 27, July in London, United Kingdom.
Bonnie Mugabe
Bonnie Mugabe

It’s exactly 173 days to this year’s Olympic Games which kick off Friday, 27, July in London, United Kingdom.

In Rwanda, only one athlete (Adrien Niyonshuti in cycling) qualified for the London Games, while sitting volleyball team, power lifting (Theoneste Hakizimana) and athletics (Cliff Hermas Muvunyi) have qualified for the Paralympic Games which begin immediately after the closure of the Olympic Games.

Rwanda’s preparations for the London 2012 Olympics are fettered in the swamp and this has left some of the potential athletes frustrated while others are holding their own build up as they hope to hit the required qualifying mark.

Also those, who need to compete in the qualification tournaments, are not supported the way it should be done to help them ensure the 2012 reality.

The Sports Ministry and the National Olympic and Sport Committee have continued with their usual ‘wait and see’ attitude with regards to funds to drive the country’s quest to end her medal jinx.

The veteran long distance runner Epiphanie Nyirabarame, a two-time Olympian has prepared intensively in her bid to secure the qualifying times for the Games.

Last month, she was to compete in an Olympic qualification marathon in Dubai but missed out due to visa problems according to his head coach Emmanuel Murenzi.

However, despite missing the Dubai marathon, Nyirabarame continues to train locally in preparation for Rome Marathon, another Olympic qualifying tournament due in Italy on March 17.

Pure negligence, poor management and incompetence by the people running sports in this country, has continued to kill the sports movement.

Sylvain Rukundo and Felix Ntirenganya are the other athletes working hard to ensure they qualify for London Games once they have managed to compete in an Olympic qualifying tournament between now and April.

In boxing, Jean Maurice Bikorimana who secured an Olympic scholarship from the International Olympic Solidarity fund may be exempted from the qualifying hustle to participate in London games via a wildcard ticket following his great performances in his French-based camp.

Swimmers are also relying on Alphonsine Agahozo, who may be awarded a wildcard since her standard can not allow her to ever snatch the minimum requirements needed in swimming.

Paris-based Rwandan judo athlete Fred Yannick Sekamana Uwase, who was identified late last year, wants to represent Rwanda in London. The local federation has already requested a wildcard to enable him compete at the Games but that request is yet to be given a green light.

Sekamana who trains at Saint Genevieve Sports judo club in Paris is among top five athletes in France. This year, he has won the junior France Championship title.

If these athletes manage to hit the required standard, then be rest assured that for the first time in the history of the Olympic Games, Rwanda will be well represented.

With so efforts and initiatives by the individual athletes and their federations, what has the Olympic Committee as well as the Ministry of Sports done to make sure that the country sends as many athletes to the London Olympic Games as possible?

At the moment, nothing shows that we are even in an Olympic year which is always a big event for other countries! Everything in Rwanda is at a standstill and responsible people are set to wake up when there is left with a month or two to the Games. This attitude must change.

Since 1984, Rwanda has made seven appearances to the Olympic Games but with no medal to show off. Only Jean de Dieu Nkundabera managed a bronze medal in the Paralympic Games in 2004 in Athens, Greece.

The only feat that our athletes have achieved is recording personal best results, but the government does not spend over $1 million on the delegation just for ‘best results’ without medals.

I am not supportive of the idea of the authorities waiting till the last minute to commence preparation for probably the biggest sporting event on the planet.

The Olympic Games comes every four years; and you do not wake up in May or June of the final year to begin running about looking for money for preparations. This should be done two or three years before the event.

It is high time, the responsible people woke up and done something for the athletes, who are, all the time, asked to deliver with no investment made on them.

As is the norm, federation and sports ministry officials are waiting to engage in fights with two months left regarding to who travels to London instead of focusing on early preparations to at least escort them with pride.


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