Less than a week from today, the 2016 Rio Olympic Games will begin in Brazil; however a number of athletes across the world will miss the games due to a number of reasons. The Rio Olympics are scheduled for August 5-12 Brazil.
A case in a point is Russian athletes, who have been banned following allegations of wide-spread doping, others have withdrawn from the Summer Games over Zika virus concerns, whereas others have been hit by injuries, or they are just not good enough to qualify.
But for Rwandan marathoner, Jean-Baptiste Simukeka, it’s just a bitter pill to swallow that he will not be on the plane to Rio de Janeiro, not that he didn’t qualify, but simply because of sheer bad luck.
Simukeka clocked a time of 2:17:14, beating the minima required qualification time for the Rio Games, but unfortunately, he has been disqualified on grounds that the competition in which he qualified, wasn’t an IAAF-sanctioned event.
After six months of preparations, he was shocked to get the sad news from the Rwanda National Olympic and Sports Committee (RNOSC) while finalizing his preparation in Iten camp, Kenya.
According to the International Association of Athletic Federation (IAAF) and Association of the Marathons and Distance Races (AMISS) qualification conditions, athletes must have qualified between January and July 2015, which he did but the Reggio Emilia Marathon course was not measured by IAAF/AMISS Grade ‘A’ or ‘B’ International Road race.
Simukeka competed in the race last year in December, but he claims that the Reggio Emilia race was scraped off the IAAF qualification programme in June 2016.
However, according to the 2015-2016 certified calendar list of IAAF/AMISS races, among the 13 official races in Italy, the Reggio Emilia Marathon course is missing, meaning it is not measured or listed in any of the grades hence rendering Simukeka’s qualification null.
His compatriot, Claudette Mukasakindi qualified to Rio after earning the qualification time from the Firenze Marathon in Italy, which is officially listed on the AMIS calendar.
Disqualification means Sumukeka, 33, will have to wait another four years to see if he can make his Olympic debut, but with sadness he said, “It is very disappointing that I will not go to Rio. I was shocked to hear the sad news. It is so hurting after all the time and energy spent trying to achieve a life-time goal. ”
Who’s to blame?
Rwanda Athletics Federation (RAF) secretary general, Johnson Rukundo, thinks Simukeka’s coach should take the blame, insisting that, “His coach should have verified before he registered the athlete.”
“As RAF, what we are going to do is to set a standard where our athletes should compete in the top well well-known and recognized international events like the Boston or Tokyo Marathon for any World Championship or Olympic qualifiers,” he noted.
He adds that, RAF would recommend the Kigali Peace Marathon, but since it’s just 14 years old- they still need to get in touch with IAAF so that they can send an expert to measure and certify the terrain. RAF is said to be a member of AMIS.
If it was not for the adversity, Simukeka would have traveled to Rio next week and perhaps pin the nation’s image on the world athletics map but he admits, “Maybe it was not meant to be my time to compete at the Olympics, but I will keep training hard for other bigger races to come.”
Simukeka was one of the three full marathon runners that were to represent Rwanda in Rio. The others are Claudette Mukasakindi and Ambroise Uwiragiye, who is based in the Netherlands.
Since mid June, both Simukeka and Mukasakindi are camped in Iten, Kenya where they have been conducting their final training.
Rwanda will now be represented by Mukasakindi and Uwiragiye and Salome Nyirarukundo (who will compete in the women’s 10,000m category) in Athletics.
The 19-year-old Nyirarukundo qualified last month after impressing at the 20th edition of Africa Athletics Senior Championships in Durban, South Africa.
Apart from athletics, other Rwandans who booked their tickets to Rio include; cyclists Nathan Byukusenge (Mountain Bike) and Adrien Niyonshuti (road racing).
Hermas Muvunyi (middle distance runner) and the national women sitting volleyball team have also qualified for the Rio Paralympics Games, scheduled for September.