Rwanda Athletics Federation (RAF) secretary general, Johnson Rukundo has commended the national athletics junior team after a promising debut at this year’s IAAF World Junior Athletics Championships that ended on Sunday in Bydgoszcz, Poland.
For the first time ever, Rwanda fielded a record five qualified athletes-two males and three females at the biennial track and field event that started on July 19 and ended on July 24.
Despite not managing a podium finish, all the athletes improved their personal best time while two set new national records.
Speaking to Times Sport in an exclusive phone interview from Bydgoszcz, Rukundo hailed the performance of the youngsters.
“The performance of all the five was good, and some competed in the final, it is a good experience, and don’t forget that all of them improved on their times,” said Rukundo, who also led the delegation to Poland.
Rukundo explained that with the current level of athletes, the country can win medals in the next two to three years.
“Most of our athletes are young, and the fact that we’re qualifying for continental and world championships, is a big indicator we’re on the right track.”
The five athletes included; 19-year-old Salome Nyirarukundo, who competed in the girls 5000m, 18-year-old Beatha Nishimwe, in the 1500m, and 17-year-old Honorine Iribagiza, who featured in the 800m race.
Others were; Jean Marie Vianney Myasiro and James Sugira, both aged 19, who competed in the 10,000m and 1500m race, respectively. Sugira and Iribagiza failed to qualify from their respective heats while Nishimwe finished sixth in the girls 1500m final on Sunday after clocking 4:12:13.
Myasiro managed to break a 12-year national record in 10,000m. The youngster clocked 29:26:16 to finish in the 11th place out of the 34 athletes, hence breaking the record of 29:35:41 that was set by Valence Bivahagumye in 2004 in Italy, during a similar event.
Nyirarukundo, who almost pulled out of the competition a day before running in the 5,000m final on Saturday, defied illness to finish 13th clocking 15:57:68, and in the process broke her own national record of 15:57:80 that she set on March 13, 2016, by 12 micro-seconds.
The team is expected back in the country on today afternoon, and Nyirarukundo will continue her preparations ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games where she qualified to compete in the women’s 10,000m.