RWANDA has competed in eight Summer Olympic Games and the country has never won an Olympic medal, but Jean de Dieu Nkundabera won a Paralympic bronze medal in T46 men’s 800-metre race, with a time of 1:58.95 at the 2004 Summer Paralympics in Athens.
A few weeks back, we were expecting to see some good performances from Team Rwanda which competed at the just concluded London Games.
Rwanda fielded seven athletes; Adrien Niyonshuti (mountain biking), Jean Pierre Mvuyekure (men’s full marathon), Claudette Mukasakindi (women full marathon), Robert Kajuga (10,000m), Yannick Fred Sekamana (Judo) and two swimmers in Alphonsine Agahozo and Jackson Niyomugabo.
None of these athletes could ensure that Rwanda’s national anthem was sung for the first time at the Olympics and just like DR Congo, Tanzania, etc, they returned home with an empty basket.
Kajuga was the only athlete who deserved to wear the national jersey in London. Considering that he was new to international stage, he defied odds to finish a respectable 14th in a 10,000m strong field which had the likes of the Bekele brothers ‘Kenenisa and Tariku’ from Ethiopia, Great Britain’s Mo Farah and the Kenyan trio of Bedan Karoki Muchiri, Moses Ndiema Masai and Wilson Kiprop.
Since 1984 when we first took part in the Olympics which were held in Los Angeles, everyone has in one way or another never bothered to be taken into a key word known as ‘Accountabilty’.
There is no one accountable for Rwanda’s poor show in sports here in the country. Ministers, Rwanda Olympic Committee and sports federation Officials continue as is without a bother.
Will there be any root cause analysis following the London olympics? No...Life will have to continue as usual till the next olympics 2016.
No one can simply know the problem but as many lazy and corrupt federations tend to say; “money is the problem, we never had money to prepare for the Olympics”. Okay if money is the issue, why not root for private-public partnerships.
Surely, there could be the likes of MTN, Tigo, Airtel, Skol or Bralirwa that can jump in and are willing to be part of our success.
Government has done its part in supporting sports and it has never failed to release money to train athletes.
Sports has been a priority for the government since 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, so let us not rest on our laurels and wait for 2016 expecting Government to act different.
What I have realised for the past 18 years, we have never had targets in our sports fraternity in as far as taking part in international competitions is concerned.
Every time ahead of All Africa, Commonwealth and Olympic games, we go back to debates on the number of officials the country will send to the Olympic games. Are those athletes qualified or will they compete on wildcards?
It is better we leave the issue of contention on the number of athletes and focus on why we don’t have more athletes qualifying and why if it happens, we have never won any medal?
Therefore, Rwandan sport, from the Ministry down to the clubs is one area that operates without targets.
The target for the Minister of Sports and Culture, Protais Mitali should be to qualify at least 50 athletes for the next Olympics in Rio 2016, then pick the best 25 to compete not to participate in Brazil in 2016. If Mitali fails, then let him be replaced with an ambitious person to meet the target in 2020.
The same target should be given to the new Olympic Committee executive committee which must be voted into office before the end of this year since the outgoing has totally ran out of ideas to put sports on its right track.
I also suggest that officials from today should always travel to games to work and sweat just like their athletes but not to rest or go for shopping sprees.
Infighting, inadequate government funding and mismanagement are issues synonymous with sport in Rwanda, why don’t we put an end to these acts and blames that do tarnish our sporting image?
This is the right time to make a four-year plan. The British people did it and it paid dividends not only as good hosts but even won medals in the concluded games.
We must identify particular talent through the respective federations and associations and nurture those talents for four years.
If the government is not coming through with its pledges, federations and Olympic committee managers need to think outside the box. And not only think, but Act on the ideas that will help them forge a formidable way forward for Team Rwanda, Come 2016.
The issue of finance shouldn’t be taken lightly as well as the training facilities too.... Finances are needed in order to train the athletes well, equip them with modern facilities, proper equipments etc....It is high time we take the bull by its horns and act on the problems to attain a formidable team come 2016!!!!!!
We need serious sports leaders to fulfill these missions not masqueraders.Where there is a will, there is a way...Let us think beyond the box. Its as embarrassing as it gets to see our teams being called tourists year in year out in every sporting activity.
Media Excellence Award-Sports Journalist of the year Award Winner Bonnie Mugabe is a Senior Sports Reporter with The New Times.