Niyonshuti qualifies after impressing in Africa’s mountain bike championship
ADRIEN Niyonshuti became the first Rwandan athlete to qualify for next year’s Olympic Games in London after impressing in Saturday’s UCI Africa Continental Cross Country Mountain Bike Championship in Jonkershoek, Cape Town, South Africa.
The two-time Tour of Rwanda champion, who now rides for South Africa’s MTN-Qhubeka, used one hour and 43 minutes.
With the top four riders certain of qualification, Niyonshuti, who turned 24 last month, held on to secure that final qualification slot.
While Times Sport could not reach the rider by press time, the national cycling federation president Aimable Bayingana, who cheered Niyonshuti all the way, was delighted with the latter’s performance.
“He deserves to be at the London Games. He has worked so hard over the last two years,” Bayingana said.
“This should be an inspiration to the other upcoming riders.”
Pre-race favourite Burry Stander lived up to the billing by winning the grueling 18km race while Garmin-adidas teammates Marc Bassingthwaighte and Philips Buys claimed the other podium slots.
After winning the silver medal in the men’s pro-elite race over 155 km earlier this month, it was always going to be difficult to challenge Stander.
On top of his superior technical and climbing skills, Stander who rides for Specialized/Mr. Price used his “never say die” attitude to great effect.
Niyonshuti also becomes the first Rwandan cyclist to qualify for the Olympic Games.