AS the curtain drew on the Beijing Games, it was clear that China was the biggest winner on all fronts; from playing the perfect host to winning a record 100 medals including a staggering 51 gold medals. Unfortunately, Rwanda is one of those countries that have nothing to cheer about the Beijing Games.
Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Morocco, Kenyan, Ethiopia and Kenya are among a few African countries who had their presence felt in Beijing.
Although the continent did not score as usual in its strong hold (sprints, long distance races, marathon and boxing), Kenya and Ethiopia still maintained their status quo in distance running, albeit the hard way.
The difference between them and our local athletes is that they had what it took to get to the podium.
Dieudonne Disi, Rwanda’s major hope at the Games finished 19th in 10,000m, and stands not to be in shape to compete at the top level in 2012.
What has gone wrong in his career remains a mystery. Maybe it’s a slump in form, but again, it has lasted too long.
Disi paid the price of concentrating very much on road races in the build-up to the Games. He looked too fatigued in Beijing and couldn’t push his body fast. Point to note; for future races, Rwanda should learn to look for running partners.
Kenenisa Bekele and Sihine Sileshi shone because Haile Gebrselassie had failed to take on the pressure from the Kenyan pair of Micah Kogo and Moses Masai.
It is also time for the Rwanda athletics federation to start restricting appearances of local athletes before big championships.
Kenya and Ethiopia have done this and it has paid-off. At least Epiphanie Nyirabarame should have run a personal best in the women’s marathon. She was disappointing after finishing 66th.
I feel Nyirabarame is worn out to compete on an international level.
Swimmers Jackson Niyomugabo and three-time Olympian Pamela Girimbabazi were a disappointment too in the 50m freestyle.
But I feel the debutant Niyomugabo is capable of swimming well below 22 seconds given standardised training facilities.
True, our people ran and swam, but none ever stirred the crowd! Lessons have been drawn.
The 29th Olympic Games exposed Rwanda’s Olympic Committee inept administrators who went shopping in Hong Kong at the expense of cheering on the country’s swimmers in the 50m freestyle event.
Ideally, you would expect the government through the Sports ministry to investigate what led to such appalling show in Beijing.
A move in that direction could also possibly unearth what exactly happened to tickets meant for (the country’s ex-Olympians) since none of them ever travelled with the Rwanda team.
Sports Minister Joseph Habineza should also act tough on local federations and RNOC at large to evaluate their role in the development of local sports.
No talent search
Apart from the athletics federation that holds national and regional events, other sports federations seem incapacitated. Their activities are confined in Kigali due to financial hardships and lack of proper structures.
The facilities, including few sports grounds and upcountry schools’ running tracks, are in ruins and some have been turned into cattle grazing fields during holidays.
We should of course not forget the unending squabbles in federations like the swimming, athletics, boxing and chess governing bodies and the greedy officials who want to swindle the meagre resources allocated to them.
Emphasis on other sporting disciplines
Rwanda must prepare quite early for the coming Olympics and overcome the obsession of just fielding athletes and swimmers.
For a long time, Rwanda has limited herself to athletics and swimming. There are so many sporting events at Rwanda’s disposal.
These include Judo, badminton, wrestling, archery, water polo and hockey amongst others. I think the trick here is to concentrate on less known sport events.
For example India won her first gold medal in Beijing in the 10m air rifle shooting. We also saw countries win medals, in walk race, javelin throws and short put.
Another perfect example is archery. By default, Rwandans are good at this because of their history of using bows and arrows at a very tender age. Can’t we spot talents from that region to break the medal jinx.
The national Olympic committee (RNOC) has a critical task at hand because nations that have won medals have worked very hard for it unlike ours here were the administrators will do everything possible not to win medals but to prepare for their post retirement age whatever the cost.