Rwanda is still miles away from winning an Olympic medal unless the country turns focus on not-so mainstream sports disciplines, archery, fencing, javelin or wrestling, according to the Rwanda National Olympic and Sports Committee (RNOSC) vice president, Elie Manirarora.
Manirarora, who was the Chef de Mission for Team Rwanda at the 2016 Rio Olympics Games, made the remarks in his first interview with Sunday Sport after the team’s return on Thursday.
Rwanda was represented by a team of seven athletes, including; two swimmers, two cyclists and three runners, who performed poorly extending the country’s long wait for an Olympic medal.
“It is an overwhelming ambition to target a medal at the Olympics having qualified with a minima and you are going to compete against athletes that qualified with maxima times, it is impossible and I have to say that we have a long way to go to reach that level,” admitted Manirarora.
Only swimmer, Johannah Umurungi, managed to improve her personal best time in 100m butterfly by two seconds ranking 44th out 65 while her compatriot Eloi Imaniraguha, competing in the men’s 50m freestyle, finished 68th out of 85, posting 26:43, which is below his personal best of 25:82.
Teenager Salome Nyirarukundo, finished 27th out of the 35 participants in the women’s 10,000m, failing to beat her personal best time of 31:45:82 while Claudette Mukasakindi posted her worst time in the women full marathon.
The 33-year old finished 126th out of 133 runners, clocking 3:05:57, which was way below the time she posted on her Olympic debut in London four years ago when she finished 101st in a time of 2:51:07.
In the men’s marathon, Ambroise Uwiringiye finished in 99th position with a time of 2 hours, 25 minutes and 57 seconds on his Olympics debut. His best time is 2:18:26.
Even more disappointing results came from the cycling duo of Adrien Niyonshuti (Road race) and Nathan Byukusenge (Mountain Bike race) that did not finish the competition, both bowing out of the race.
No Olympic medal
Manirarora noted that, “Kenya won their first athletic medal 50 years ago and they have built on that success for decades, they have invested a lot in athletics and it’s no surprise they are winning medals at every major competitions.”
“For us, we’re still a long way to be on their level. In swimming we were just invited while cycling, we are far off countries like France, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, Britain and many others, so we still have a lot to work.
“But I think we have some potential in sports like archery, fencing, wrestling and javelin if we can put resources and energy into developing these sports, I believe we can succeed,” he explained.
Rwanda made its Olympic debut at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles, United States and the country has been regular participant but never won any medal and remains the only East African nation without a an Olympic medal.
In Rio, Kenya won a total of 13 medals, South Africa 10, Ethiopia 8, Egypt and Tunisia 3 each, Ivory Coast, and Algeria two while Burundi, Niger, Nigeria and Morocco had one medal.