Highly-rated female athlete Salome Nyirarukundo has vowed to become the first Rwandan athlete to win a medal at this year’s IAAF World Championships.
On Sunday, the 19-year-old made history by winning the third edition of Berkane International Half Marathon in Morocco on her debut.
She finished the 21.097km race, ahead of an Ethiopian and three Kenyans after posting one hour, 11 minutes and 13 seconds. She set a new course record as well after breaking the one set by Ethiopian Olira Belyenesh, the winner of the inaugural edition in 2013, who clocked 1h:11’:18.
Nyirarukundo beat her closest challenger, Borecha Bekolech Gudeta from Ethiopia by 40 seconds.
“It was my first time to compete in this race but I was determined to do well, I was also very confident because I had two months of good preparations in Kenya. I broke away after 16 kilometres and never looked back until the finish line,” she told Times Sport on Tuesday.
Following a successful 2016, Nyirarukundo attracted attention from the world’s top athletics managers, and in January this year, after parting company with APR Athletics Club, she struck a deal with Netherlands-based Global Sports Communication, which also has bases in Uganda, Kenya and China.
The company represents up to 150 athletes from 20 different countries including; Eliud Kipchoge, the 2016 Rio Olympics Marathon gold medalist, Kenenisa Bekele (the current World and Olympic record holder in men’s 5,000m and 10,000m), Almaz Ayana (Rio Olympics women 10,000m gold medal winner).
Others include; Kenyan Geoffrey Kipsang Kamworor (the 2017 IAAF World Cross Country champion) and Uganda’s Stephen Kiprotich the 2012 London Olympics marathon gold medalist.
Nyirarukundo, who currently trains with the above world champions at Kaptagat training camp in Eldoret, Kenya, revealed that her focus now is winning a medal at the IAAF World Championships set for August 4-13 in London.
The youngster qualified for the world championships in the women’s 10,000 meters during her debut at the 2016 Olympics.
She said, “My target is to win a medal in London. Because of training with all these world-class athletes, I feel it’s very possible. All I need is to continue training hard.”
The entry standard in women 10,000m is 32 minutes and 15 seconds, valid from January 1, 2016 until July 23, 2017. At the 2016 Rio Olympics, the Rutsiro-born athlete debutant finished 27th after clocking 32:07:80.