After stunning Germany to win the 2010 Sitball world title in Kampala, Rwanda failed to defend the title as the Germans revenged for their loss three years ago with a narrow 49-47 win in an entertaining final played on Saturday at Amahoro indoor stadium.
This was Rwanda’s second defeat in the tournament having lost to the same team 30-28 in another tight preliminary round game on Friday. The European giants finished the 4th edition of the tournament unbeaten as they cruised to their third world title.
The Rwanda National Paralympic Committee has proved that disability is not inability and defied the odds to become one of the local federations which have prepared national teams without enough resources but proved a mark in as far raising Rwanda’s flag in international competitions is concerned.
It’s not that their success relies on their skills but over the weekend, their performances exhibited many attributes that still lack in many national teams in the country.
I was very impressed with the commitment and enthusiasm of the team, which remained upbeat, cheerful and determined to go beyond limits in ensuring that Rwanda keeps the title.
The Sitball team members despite finishing second behind Germany, and there is no shame in that, are great ambassadors for the country. This accomplishment reminds me of their participation in the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
Making their debut, the national Sitball team marched into the 2012 London Paralympic Games with their eyes firm on a podium slot but their quest ended early as they finished fourth in their pool having faced top teams like Bosnia & Herzegovina, Brazil and China.
Rwanda was the 1st sub-Saharan African team to win a Sitting Volleyball match in Paralympics after beating Morocco 3-1, though it did not mean much since Rwanda was already out of the medal bracket.
If we are to go by records from different Paralympic teams, NPC has performed better than some federations which received a lion’s share of the government budget to enable them compete at the highest level in Africa or in the World-but with little or nothing in terms of results to show.
Following subsequent success in the last five or so years, it’s only fair to challenge the Ministry of Sports and Culture as well as the National Olympic Committee to revise their budget support for the NPC.
Instead of pumping millions of Rwandan francs in the so called ‘priority sports’ whose results have been mediocre at best, the government should venture in sports for the disabled because they have put Rwanda on the world sporting map.
Take a look at athletics during the Paralympic London Games; although the country was unable to get that much-craved medal, performances by Hermas Cliff Muvunyi and Theogene Hakizimana were worth applauding.
A year after, Muvunyi still with no ample preparations, took part in the sixth IPC Athletics World Championships at the Stade Du Rhone in Lyon, France and raised the Rwandan flag for the first time on the international scene in recent years as he snatched a World 800m championship gold medal when no one expected.
It was not by chance, but it was a phenomenal performance from a resilient attacker which earned him recognition during the cabinet meeting. He has raised the bar for other athletes to emulate him.
In 2011, at the All Africa Games in Maputo, he showed that he can compete with the continent’s best after finishing 5th in the men’s 400m final. Nonetheless, the athlete did Rwanda proud.
So far, he is the only active Rwandan athlete, who has come closest to winning the country a second medal at the Paralympic Games since 2004 when Jean de Dieu Nkundabera defied the odds to win a bronze medal in the men’s T46 800m race after clocking 1:58:95.
For a personality like Muvunyi, who comes from a humble background, becoming world champion had seemed a remote dream, even though he was always ambitious.
In Lyon, he achieved that dream, inspired, as he said himself, by the feats of Kenyan 800m world record holder David Rudisha and he hopes to set a world record one day. He currently holds the African record in the men’s T46 800m.
Weightlifter Theogene Hakizimana has also proved that there is life beyond track and field sporting disciplines following his spirited display in London Games.
Hakizimana, who competed in the men’s 82.50kg category, finished 7th after going as far as 175kg.
While he wasfar from Iran’s Majid Farzin, who took gold with a magnificent lift of 237kg, finishing inside the top ten was a formidable achievement for the athlete given the fact he probably wasn’t as well prepared as his opponents.
The success registered by the disabled athletes in a short time is attributed to the efficient and focused National Paralympic Committee headed by Celestin Nzeyimana.
From the NPC’s cleaner to the national team competing locally, Africa or in global championship, everyone has shown his commitment and passion towards what he/she does for the development of their sport.
Trust me, NPC are winning over the neutrals as seen by the large crowd that tuned out for the two-day world championships at Amahoro indoor stadium.