The inaugural Ironman 70.3 Rwanda Triathlon race that concluded in Rubavu on Sunday, August 14, produced unforgettable memories for both the host nation and participants and their families that traveled to show them support during the race. The event was officially inaugurated in Rubavu attracting over 150 athletes from 37 countries worldwide, including Rwanda whose athletes witnessed mixed fortunes during their first Ironman race experience. The race, a bucket-list experience for many, started at the pier of Lake Kivu with the Mayor of Rubavu, Ildephonse Kambogo, along with Sports Minister Aurore Mimosa Munyangaju and Rwanda Development Board’s Chief Executive Office Clare Akamanzi welcoming all athletes who gathered in Gisenyi to attend the race. Athletes competed in a 1.9 kilometer swim in Lake Kivu, a four-lap bike course and a three-lap 21.1 kilometer run to the finish line. Every athlete who finished the three courses is called an Ironman. First out of the water in the individual men’s race was British athlete, Stuart Hayes, shortly followed by South African Donovan Geldenhuys. The first individual Rwandan athlete out of the water was Claude Dusabe, who was hot on the heels of the leaders. The first female athlete out of the water was South African Arina Niyaki followed by Egyptian athlete Khadiga Amin. First off the bike was Stuart Hayes, followed by Russian Ilya Slepov and Maximilien von Berg. The women’s race saw Netherland’s Birgit Kramer first off the bike with Arina Niyaki a few minutes behind her. As the day heated up so did the racing. Taking on the 21.1 kilometer run course, athletes were greeted by cheering spectators all the way to the finish line. Coming over the finish line in first position was Ilya Slepov (04:25:27) to become the Ironman race champion for a record eighth time in his career. The Russian was followed by Stuart Hayes (04:26:57) while Maximilien von Berg (04:32:53) completed the podium for the top three. “It’s always an unbelievably happy moment when you finish the cross-line after all the suffering. It feels very emotional. It’s always a difficult race but the Rwandan race was really a good experience,” Slepov told Times Sport after becoming the Ironman 70.3 Rwanda champion. Dutch athlete Birgit Kramer held onto her lead to take first place in the women’s category, clocking 05:08:52 for the 70.3 miles. She was followed by Khadiga Amin (05:34:27) and Ka Wai Lee (05:38:58) who came second and third respectively. Rwanda, which had 28 representatives overall, impressed in the team’s category as the trio of Germain Ngendahayo (L), Japhet Mpayimana (C) and Eliezel Bigoreyiki (R) finished top of the group relay. The three, who play for Cercle Sportif Karongi, teamed up for the race where Ngendahayo competed in the 1.9km swim course before his compatriot Mpayimana took on the cycling race while Eliezel competed the group relay on an impressive not to finish the line first and win the race for his team. After winning the group relay, Bigoreyiki said that only the team spirit helped his team win the race despite claiming that Rwandan athletes’ training conditions were not that good enough to help them perform better. “We are happy that we won this race as a team but we could have done even better if we had prepared well. The conditions weren’t good enough for an athlete to win a race like this and we hope to be supported in future competitions,” the 29-year-old said. The winning athletes stand a chance of claiming slots in the 2023 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship, which is due to take place in Lahti, Finland. There were 45 slots up for grabs for the Ironman Rwanda race, of which five were claimed by Rwandan athletes namely Samuel Tuyisenge who came sixth in the overall classification, Heritier Ishimwe, Claude Dusabe, Eric Iradukunda and Hanani Uwineza.