2009 started on a low note after the local athletics federation (RAF) failed to field athletes at the ‘Ascension de Mt. Cameroon’.
The competition organizers had offered to foot the team’s air tickets, logistics and accommodation but the promises never materialized as RAF waited in vain for the air tickets.
On a brighter note though, Dieudonne Disi dominated the spot light with a series of top notch displays in Europe and Asia.
The 28-year old started by sweeping the World Cross Country Championship trials after clocking 37:31:60. Jean Baptista Simuceka (37:32:86) and Gervais Hakizimana (37:41:82) finished second and third respectively.
At the World Cross Country Championship in Amman, Jordan, Rwanda fielded six athletes. With Disi opting to pull out of the championship to concentrate on the 33rd Paris Marathon, Gervais Hakizimana ran the show finishing 42nd after returning a time of 37:07.
Felix Ntirenganya clocked 37.07 to finish 44th while Jean Baptista Simuceka, Sylvain Rukundo and Eric Sebahire finished 48th, 52nd and 82nd in that order.
Rwanda’s Claudette Mukasakindi finished 53rd on her debut.
In Paris, Disi did not make the prize bracket after finishing 18th. As usual, the race was dominated by Kenyans and Ethiopians.
Vincent Kipruto won the 42km race in record time (2 hours, 5 minutes and 47 seconds) while Disi, who was not only switching from his domain (10,000m) but also making a debut at the prestigious event raced home in 2 hours, 12 minutes and 51 seconds.
While Rwanda’s two-time Olympic athlete Epiphanie Nyirabarame claimed silver in the May Kigali International Peace Marathon, male athletes struggled.
Kenya’s James Meli won the event in a time of 1:03:52.
During the Berlin World Athletics Championship in August, Disi, who was in the leading pack dropped out after suffering a nagging pain in his right thigh.
At the time of his withdrawal, the national ace athlete was within touching distance of Ethiopia’s Deriba Merga and the Kenyan trio of Abel Kirui, Emmanuel Mutai and Robert Cheruiyot.
Kirui claimed the championship after clocking 2hours, 6minutes and 54seconds. Emmanuel Mutai (2.07:48) finished second with Ethiopia’s Olympic bronze medalist Tsegay Kebede finishing third (2.08:35).
During September’s 32nd Paris-Versailles race (16 km) in France, Disi claimed his first major silverware of the year after finishing second (48minutes and one second).
He was one minute and 56 seconds adrift of Morocco’s Mohamed El Hachimi.
That was the turning point of his year.
A few weeks later, he scooped gold in the Francophone Games in Beirut.
For his heroics, he was later named athlete of the Games and consequently awarded the ‘Assemblée Parlementaire de la Francophonie’ medal by Lebanese first lady Wafaa Sleiman during the closing ceremony.
On top of the medal, Disi also pocketed 9000 Euros (Rwf7.5m) and was also promised free air-tickets for the next two years. Apart from Disi, Epiphanie Nyirabarame also won gold in full marathon, Claudette Mukasakindi clinched gold in women 10000m and Felix Ntirenganya returned with a silver medal in men’s marathon.
After Beirut, Disi’s spectacular run continued as he won gold in the Paris 20km race. He raced home in a time of 59 minutes and 33 seconds, one second faster than Kenya’s Luka Kanda, who finished second.
In October, Disi won another gold medal in the Reims Half marathon race in France. He set the fastest time of the event after clocking one hour, one minute and thirteen seconds. Ethiopia’s Michael Tesfay and Kenyan Leonard Langat claimed the other podium slots.
There was still more to come from the former RDF soldier. In the IAAF silver label road race dubbed Classique Internationale Marseille-Cassismoreless, Disi produced another astonishing run to win the 31st edition.
In early October, Disi missed out on the IAAF World half Marathon Championship in Birmingham, England after failing to secure a visa.
With Disi out, Sylvain Rukundo recorded a season best time of 1:03:59 to finish 37th, Jean Baptista Simuceka recorded a personal best time of 1:04:02 to finish 39th, Gervais Hakizimana finished 40th in a time of 1:04:04 while Eric Sebahire on his debut recorded a personal best time of 1:04:09 to finish in 41st position.
Mukasakindi was again the country’s sole female athlete at the championship. She recorded a personal best time of 1:16:31 to finish 47th.
After a series of top notch displays, Disi’s run was finally halted in the New Delhi half marathon where he finished 6th.
Ethiopia’s Deriba Merga retained his title while Kenya’s Mary Keitany dominated the women’s category.
Disi wrapped up his 2009 season with a great run in the Rendezvous National- the final round on the local athletics championship.
Disi, who was competing for the Ministry of Defense (MoD) swept the 10,000m and scooped silver in the 5,000m to help MoD finish second behind Ministry of Education (Mineduc).