Swimming duo of Eloi Imaniraguha and Joannah Umurungi will represent Rwanda at the 2016 Rio Olympic swimming competition scheduled for August 6-13 at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium.
The development was confirmed on Friday by the Rwanda National Olympic and Sport Committee (RNOSC) vice president Elie Manirarora in a press conference at Amahoro National Stadium.
The press conference was aimed at shedding light on how far Rwanda athletes gone in their preparing for the world’s biggest sports competition.
Manirarora, who is also the Chef de Mission for the Rwandan delegation at the three-week event, revealed that Rwanda has been granted an invitation for two swimmers by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
He disclosed that Imaniraguha and Umurungi were selected by the local swimming federation to carry the country’s flag and are currently training in Europe, from where they fly to Rio.
“As always every Olympic year, the International committee (IOC) offers invitation in various categories to countries that cannot qualify through the qualifications, so we have given two slots in swimming,” Manirarora told journalists.
According to the Rwanda Swimming Federation president, Samuel Kinimba, the 21-year old Imaniraguha will compete in the men’s 50m freestyle. He is currently in training in Bangkok, Thailand since July last year, while Italy-based Umurungi, 20, will compete in the women’s 100m freestyle.
Despite going to Rio on invitation, the duo are not far away from the minima time—Imaniraguha’s record stands at 25 seconds, just over three second behind the qualification (22.27) while Umurungi is clocking one minute and seven second, with the minima time 54 seconds and 43 microseconds.
“We are very optimistic that they will perform very well given how they have improved in the recent days because we are following their progress on a daily basis and we keep in touch with their coaches,” said Kinimba.
Rwandan swimmers have competed at the last two Olympic Games, in Beijing (2008) and London (2012) however; no one has close to winning a medal.
The duo of Jackson Niyomugabo and Pamela Girimbabazi debuted at 2008 BeijingGames before Nyomugabo along with Alphonsine Agahozo competed in London four years ago.
The addition of the two swimmers, takes the number of athletes going to represent Rwanda in Rio to eight.
The others include; Claudette Mukasakindi, Jean Baptiste Simukeka and Ambroise (Marathon), Salome Nyirarukundo (10,000m), Nathan Byukusenge and Adrien Niyonshuti (Team Rwanda captain) in cycling.
In the Paralympic Games scheduled for September 7-18, Rwanda will be represented by the women sitting volleyball team, who will also be representing the African continent as well as Hermas Muvunyi 400m T-46 and 800m T-46.