Rwanda’s Para Taekwondo player Jean Claude Niringiyimana was on Tuesday announced by International Paralympic Committee (IPC) as the Allianz Athlete of the Month for April.
This is the first time ever for a Rwandan athlete to reach that level in Para-Taekwondo. It follows the 24-year-old’s stunning performance at last month’s second edition of Africa-Para Taekwondo Open that was hosted in Kigali.
At his first ever international competition, Niringiyimana took silver medal in the Men’s under 61kg K44 – He overcame Lesotho’s Phoofolo Mokhethi in a tight 7-6 duel on his way to the final, only falling to Spain’s No. 3 ranked Aythami Santana. Niringiyimana entered May’s world ranking tied for 13th.
The Bugesera-born player received 76 per cent of the public votes. Canadian Para Ice Hockey player Adam Dixon was second with 17 per cent. Swiss Wheelchair racer Manuela Schar, Australian Para Table Tennis player Melissa Tapper and US Para Ice Hockey player Declan Farmer, were also nominated.
“I am speechless and very excited, I want to thank my masters for helping me reach this level. I believe this is a big motivation not only for me but the whole team that we are capable of achieving a lot in this sport,” said Niringiyimana in an interview with Times Sport.
On top of this award, Niringiyimana has been given a wildcard by World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) to compete at this year’s third edition of Asian Para Taekwondo Open slated for July 1, in Chuncheon, South Korea.
He noted that, “I believe this will be a great opportunity for me to show case my skills, what I exhibited here in Kigali is just a small piece, and now I’ve got the chance to compete at one of the biggest stages.”
Competing for the first in the continent’s biggest competition of martial artists with physical disabilities and impairments, Rwanda put on a good fight claiming a total of six medals in different categories hence finishing as the best team overall.