Rwanda’s most promising female athlete Salome Nyirarukundo has set her sights on ending the country’s decade-long jinx at the Kigali International Peace Marathon slated for May 21.
Started as a way to use sports in the healing and reconciliation process after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, the theme for this year’s edition is “Run for our Heroes” to honor the lives lost during the struggle to liberate the country.
No Rwandan athlete has ever won this race, which has been dominated by Kenyans in both the men and women categories.
However, the on form Nyirarukundo fresh from winning the third edition of Berkane International Half Marathon in Morocco on her debut where she even set a new course record has revealed to Times Sport that she is aiming to improve on last year’s performance and become the first Rwandan to strike gold at the annual event.
Last year, the 20-year-old youngster was the only local athlete to manage a podium finish scooping a silver medal, an improvement on the 2015 performance when she finished fourth also as the best female Rwandan athlete in the Peace Marathon.
“I believe I have the capacity to win any tournament, so far I have won several competitions against strong athletes from Kenya, Ethiopia and Eritrea. My focus now is to make this year the most successful one and my next target is our own Kigali Peace Marathon, I want to win the competition this time around,” said Nyirarukundo.
In January this year, after parting ways with APR Athletics Club, she entered a deal with Netherlands-based Global Sports Communication, which also has bases in Uganda, Kenya and China.
The company represents up to 150 athletes from 20 different countries including; Eliud Kipchoge, the 2016 Rio Olympics Marathon gold medalist, Kenenisa Bekele (the current World and Olympic record holder in men’s 5,000m and 10,000m), and Almaz Ayana (Rio Olympics women 10,000m gold medal winner).
Others include; Kenyan Geoffrey Kipsang Kamworor (the 2017 IAAF World Cross Country champion) and Uganda’s Stephen Kiprotich, the 2012 London Olympics marathon gold medalist.
Nyirarukundo, who currently trains with the above mentioned world champions at Kaptagat training camp in Eldoret, Kenya, revealed that her focus now is winning a medal at the IAAF World Championships set for August 4-13 in London and Kigali International Peace Half Marathon.
“I plan to travel to Eldoret in two week’s time to begin training, well my top priority is winning a medal in London, but first I have to pick the motivation from Kigali in May,” she added
The youngster qualified for the world championships in the women’s 10,000 meters during her debut at the 2016 Olympics and is currently the only Rwandan athlete to have booked a ticket for the prestigious event.
According to organizers, this year’s edition will have three categories namely full marathon, half marathon and run for fun. It is expected to attract between 5,000 to 6,000 participants, which would be the highest turn up in the history of Kigali International Peace Marathon.