RWANDA’s achievement – eight medals including its first gold – at the just-concluded African Championships established the country as a Karate powerhouse on the continent. Theogene Uwayo, Rwanda Karate Federation president, told Times Sport Sunday.
This was at the end of the 17th African Seniors Karate Championships and the 9th African Juniors Karate Championships which began Friday at Intare Conference Arena, in Rusororo.
Uwayo said: “We have achieved our aim to establish Rwanda as a major karate country in Africa. Our philosophy to focus our efforts on young talents proved right.”
The average age for the 30-player Team Rwanda at the tournament was 21.
Given the youthful teams’ feat, Uwayo added, “Clearly with a little more financial support we could go even higher.”
The World Karate Federation (WKF) statistics at the end of the event rank Rwanda sixth on the continent for its one gold, two silver and five bronze medals.
Number one; Egypt has 16 gold, three silver and seven bronze medals. Algeria got seven gold, one silver and seven bronze medals. Third is morocco with one gold, four silver and two bronze medals, followed by South Africa with one gold, three silver and five bronze.
The fifth, Cameroon, got one gold, two silver and 10 bronze medals. No other country won gold.
Of the 282 athletes from 25 countries that participated, many left empty handed. Only the top 14 got a medal, with number 14, Niger, managing only one bronze medal.
Fighters Maic Shyaka Ndutiye, 17, Vanily Ngarambe, 25, Emery Espoir Ntungane, 25, and Lucky Niyitegeka, 17, on Saturday added four more medals to Rwanda’s tally.
The country’s first ever gold from an international tournament was won by Ndutiye, a senior three student who was debuting on the international competitive Karate scene.
Africa’s new champion in the -55kg male kumite category rushed through his first two matches with ease. He tamed Joshua Timothy Coleman of Namibia 4-0 and then quickly dispatched Senegal’s Cambe Badara 8-0 to be assured of silver. But he was too determined to settle for less.
In the final where gold was up for grabs he met Egypt’s Amr Alaa Aboukora and showed no fear. He remarkably controlled the match and won 2-1 in fashion, sending fans into rapture.
In the male kumite -40kg category, another teen, Fiston Ntwari, defeated Guinea’s Mouhamat Sy 6-1 in the first match. But bad luck struck in his match against Egyptian Malek Salama. The duel ended 6-3 in Ntwari’s favour but he was disqualified because of fouls. Nonetheless, the Egyptians, and others, noticed the vigor in Rwanda’s young, bold and ambitious fighters.
Team Captain Ngarambe also bagged the country’s second silver at the tournament while Ntungane and Niyitegeka added two bronze medals on Day Two, Saturday, of the competitions.
On the opening day, Friday, 17-year old Halifa Niyitanga quickly defeated Mozambique’s Igor Chissico 7-0 during the -61kg individual kumite matches. His next match was with South Africa’s Jody Williams who he trounced 2-0, and headed into a final where he faced Egypt’s Saad Gamal Eldin and narrowly lost 2-3.
It was so close but Niyitanga did not have the Egyptian’s experience.
“Egypt are very strong. But if we maintain the momentum and work harder after this tournament, we can beat anybody, including these great men and women from Egypt. I lost the match against the Egyptian because he was more experienced,” Niyitanga told Times Sport on Sunday.
Some ladies also showed promise despite failure to win medals. One such example was Evelyne Uwizera, a debutant, who beat Entle Maungwa of Botswana 8-4 in her first game.
Ngarambe was full of praise for Egyptian expert Hashim Mahmoud Mohamed Hashim who led the national team’s coaching staff, and noted that he is “so happy for what the team achieved”.
He said: “It is first time we get gold in Rwanda’s Karate history. It is also the first time we get medals in seniors’ Kumite at continental level.”
Ngarambe and Ntungane won silver and bronze, respectively, fighting in the seniors category.
The skipper noted that Coaches from Egypt, Senegal and Cameroun “Were shocked when they noticed how our game has improved.”
Mary Sim, a coach from Cameroon who watched Rwandan fighters do battle, said: “We know the Rwandan team since 2014 in Senegal. At that time, the team was very young and I think, now, after four years, they worked very hard. The Rwandan team is now stronger.”
In one team Kumite clash, Ntungane quickly dispatched an Egyptian fighter 11 - 3 “which is unheard of” considering Egypt’s strength on the continent and beyond.
Ngarambe trounced a fighter from Camerooun (8-0) in an individual battle. He also beat a Senegalese 3-2 in Sunday’s team Kumite clash which Rwanda lost.
"We owe much to, and thank, our coaches including Hashim from Egypt who did his best to make our team stand out.” Ngarambe added.
Africa’s best Karatekas from 25 countries were in Kigali vying for medals at the 2018 UFAK Junior and Senior Karate Championships that ended Sunday.