Athletics national team head coach Innocent Rwabuhihi backed his team to shine in future competitions despite finishing 14th in the 2014 IAAF World Half Marathon last weekend in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Speaking to Times Sport on Tuesday, Rwabuhihi said despite the poor showing, he sees potential in the athletes, who were all making their debuts in the international event.
“We had four young athletes making their debut in the world half marathon. They all improved their personal timings. The winner used 59 minutes, while our best athlete clocked one hour and two minutes, which is not a very big gap,” he noted.
The veteran trainer added: “This is a good start for them, the idea is for us to try and nurture young athletes who will follow in the footsteps of the likes of Dieudonne Disi and Epiphanie Nyirabarame.”
The coach blamed fatigue for the team’s poor showing, having reached Copenhagen a night before the race, which means the athletes had just a day to recover and acclimatize with the Danish weather.
“They could have performed better if they would have stuck to our tactics but, due to inexperience, they opted to run at the same pace as Kenyans and Ethiopians and they eventually burnt out,” disclosed Rwabuhihi.
He added: “Finishing in 14th is not bad considering the kind of opponents that they were up against. I am convinced that the four young athletes who went to Denmark will clock one hour in the next two years.”
Twenty-year old Felicien Muhitira, Rwanda’s best finisher, said: “It was a great experience to compete against some of the best athletes in the world. I managed to learn a few tactics which will help me prepare better for the next championships.”
Muhitira finished a distant 41st, clocking 1:02:30, three minutes and 23 seconds behind the winner.
The 2013 Kigali half marathon winner, Alexis Nizeyimana, finished 47th in a time of 1:02:54. Felix Ntirenganya finished 55th clocking 1:03:48, while Hussein Habumugisha clocked 1:05:11 to finish 72nd out of the 1,000 athletes, who finished the 21,097km race.
The quartet was on a mission to improve on the sixth position ranking attained two years ago in Bulgaria.
Eritrean Zersenay Tadese, the dominant force in men’s half-marathon, was beaten into fourth place in a race won by Kenya’s Geoffrey Kipsang Kamworor in 59:07, the world’s fastest time this year.