No wild cards for 2016 Rio Olympics, Habineza warns

SPORTS minister Joseph Habineza has said that athletes who receive wild cards will not be allowed to compete at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil slated for August 5-21.
The Minister for Sports and Culture, Joseph Habineza, wants Rwandans to earn their place at Rio 2016. (File)
The Minister for Sports and Culture, Joseph Habineza, wants Rwandans to earn their place at Rio 2016. (File)

SPORTS minister Joseph Habineza has said that athletes who receive wild cards will not be allowed to compete at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil slated for August 5-21.

Habineza explained that athletes need to earn their place in the Olympics rather than sit back and wait for an easy opportunity to represent the country.

Speaking during the Rwanda National Olympic and Sports Committee extraordinary general assembly in Kigali on Saturday, Habineza said: “We shall not allow athletes to represent Rwanda under the wild card system. This has to stop right away. They have to merit going to the Olympics. They need to qualify.”

In a bid to ensure universal representation at the Games, the International Olympic Committee allows national Olympic committees with few or without any athletes to participate through offering wild cards to their athletes.

A wild card is awarded to a player or team that has not qualified through the normal competitive channel. In the case of the Olympics, wild cards are offered to countries that fail to produce athletes who meet the qualification standards which allow them to enter competitors whose abilities are below the required standards. Archery, badminton, judo and swimming usually receive wild cards from international federations.

Rwandan swimmers Alphonsine Agahozo and Jackson Niyomugabo competed at the London 2012 Olympics courtesy of wild cards as well as Fred Yannick Uwase in judo.

At 16, Agahozo clocked 30.72 seconds in heat one of the women’s 50m freestyle and ranked 58th out of the 73 participants. Niyomugabo posted 27.38 seconds and was 52nd out of 58 swimmers while Uwase was given a bye in the first round before losing to Brazil’s Bruno Mendonça in the round of 32.

Rwanda is yet to win an Olympic medal since joining the Olympic movement in 1984.

Federation heads for civic training

Meanwhile, Habineza announced that he will invite all national federation presidents for a one-week civic education training commonly known as ‘Ingando’ in a bid to teach them about patriotism and the need to establish effective plans that would guide Rwandan sport to a successful future.

“Rwanda is performing at A+ in all sectors apart from sports. I don’t understand why we are still lagging behind in sports. Cycling has been a good example but the rest need to wake up.

“Why aren’t we performing well in athletics yet we are a hilly country? You don’t need a pitch or ball to run! It is high time we sat down and started planning. This has to change,” Habineza fumed.

Rwanda’s highest number of athletes to the Olympics was 10 at the London 2012 and Barcelona 1992 editions of the quadrennial event. 

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