Team Rwanda Cycling and long distance runner Alexis Nizeyimana were set to depart from Kigali International Airport at this morning at 8a.m, ahead of the XXI Commonwealth Games slated for April 4-15 in Gold Coast, Queensland – Australia.
The delegation was due to leave Kigali with a RwandAir flight before taking Etihad Airways in Nairobi.
The national cycling team is comprised of six male and two female riders and are coached by Felix Sempoma.
Marathoner Nizeyimana is part of Rwanda’s six-member athletics team but will be the country’s sole representative in the 42.195km full-marathon race. The rest of athletes on the team as well as the beach volleyball team and Para power-lifter Védaste Niyonzimana left the country on March 24.
It is not be the first time Rwanda will be fielding cyclists in Commonwealth Games as the country had six male riders at the 2014 edition in Glasgow, Scotland.
Former cycling national team captain Janvier Hadi and Valens Ndayisenga competed in Individual Time Trial (ITT) to finish 19th and 23rd, respectively.
Later, the duo was joined by Adrien Niyonshuti, Bonaventure Uwizeyimana, Gasore Hategeka and Jean Bosco Nsengimana but none of them managed to finish the race, which was won by Thomas Geraith from Wales.
The 168.2km race had 120 riders on the start-list but only 12 managed to cross the finish-line.
In an interview with Times Sport yesterday, Sempoma said his riders will be looking to better their 2014 performance.
“The riders are fit and in good mood for the competition. We have been there before, and our target now is to put up an improved performance. Whatever the result, we will have given it our best shot,” Sempoma said.
After a stellar performance at this year’s African Continental Road Championship staged in Kigali, in February, the reigning Tour du Rwanda and La Tropicale Amissa Bongo champion Joseph Areruya will be among the African riders to watch in Australia.
Asked if Rwandan sports enthusiasts can expect a medal from his boys, Sempona said it is too early to expect medals in such competitions.
“Despite our recent performances in the region and continent, there is still a long way to go in the learning process and experience to gain, but we will definitely get there. Commonwealth Games are as competitive as Olympics or World Championships.”
Apart from Areruya, the cycling team also includes; two-time Tour du Rwanda champion Valens Ndayisenga, Bonaventure Uwizeyimana and Jean Claude Uwizeyimana as well as youngsters Didier Munyaneza and Jean Paul Rene Ukiniwabo.
For the first time, Rwanda will also field female riders at the two-week competitions; they are Beatha Ingabire and Magnifique Manizabayo.
Apart from Ndayisenga and Uwizeyimana, the rest of cyclists on the team will be making their maiden appearance in the Commonwealth Games.
On the other hand, full-marathon hopeful Nizeyimana, 27, will also be making his debut in the Commonwealth Games and he says he’s optimistic of a podium finish come April 15.
At the 2014 Games in Glasgow, the country fielded two marathoners Dieudonne Didi and Jean Mvuyekure.
Regarded as the best long distance runner the country has had, Disi finished in the 18th place while compatriot Mvuyekure came in 21st spot.
Rwanda has a total of 17 athletes in four different disciplines at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.