Commonwealth Games: Marathoner Nizeyimana keen on a podium finish

Long distance runner Alexis Nizeyimana is among Rwandan athletes who will participate in the Commonwealth Games Sam Ngendahimana.
April 15
T54 men & women’s marathon – 2:20PM
Women’s marathon – 3:20 PM
Men’s marathon – 4:15 PM
RWANDA’s top full-marathoner Alexis Nizeyimana has expressed enthusiasm to break the deadlock when he makes a historic maiden appearance at the Commonwealth Games next month.
While no Rwandan athlete has ever been able to win a medal since his debut in Commonwealth Games – in 2010 in New Delhi, India – Nizeyima is confident his time to shine has come.
He says he’s ready to write history come April 15.
The XXI Commonwealth Games are scheduled for April 4-15 in Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. The multi-sport event has attracted over 6600 athletes from 70 countries and former British territories from around the world.
Making her third appearance in the quadrennial competitions, Rwanda will be represented by a total 17 athletes in four different sporting disciplines namely; Athletics, beach volleyball, para powerlifting and cycling.
Apart from Felix Sempoma’s cycling team and marathoner Nizeyimana who are traveling on April 5, the rest of the Rwandan delegation left the country on March 24 and are already in Australia ahead of the April 4 kick-off.
Born on October 1, 1990, Nizeyimana will be Rwanda’s sole representative in the four marathon events at the Games.
At the 2014 edition in Glasgow, Scotland, the country fielded two marathoners, Dieudonne Disi and Jean Mvuyekure. Regarded as the best long-distance runner the country has ever known, Disi finished in the 18th place while compatriot Mvuyekure came in 21st spot.
Nizeyimana, a former amateur footballer, had a chat with Saturday Sport’s Richard Bishumba on Thursday about his dream, preparations and aspirations at the much-anticipated multidiscipline event.
Commonwealth Games are around in the corner, how do you feel ahead of the competition?
I am feeling very well. I have set high ambitions for myself and I am doing the best I can in preparations to achieve them. I am not travelling to make up numbers, I am representing my country as a prominent competitor.
Since late last year, I have been training for this particular event. I am fit and in great mood. However, in such competitions it takes more than just fitness to win a medal. Right now I am focused on improving my mental preparedness and tactics. Those two go hand-in-hand with fitness for an athlete to win a marathon race.
What is your ultimate goal at Commonwealth Games?
To many, my target in Australia sounds crazy and looks impossible. My ultimate goal is to finish in top three in men’s full-marathon.
After qualifying for the competition last October in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, my focus immediately turned to preparations. It’s now over four months in training, personal drills and those I have been supported by Rwanda Athletics Federation (RAF).
To be honest, it is a very ambitious goal and I know, especially that Rwanda is not known to be a strong athletics country and no Rwandan has a Commonwealth Games medal on his/her name yet. That is why I am very optimistic and more motivated to make it happen.
How does your person best align with your ambition?
In IAAF recognised international competitions, my personal best stands at 2:13:06, which I posted on October 14, 2017 in Tanzania – in the qualifiers of the Commonwealth Games. However, I have ever since improved and I am currently recording two minutes less than that in training.
At the XX Commonwealth Games in Scotland, in 2014, the men’s full-marathon winner Michael Shelley of Australia clocked 2:11:15, while Uganda’s Abraham Kiplimo used 2:12:23 to win bronze. If I use two hours and 12 minutes or less, I stand a good chance for a podium finish.
I was supposed to travel with the rest of the delegation on March 24, but I requested for my ticket to be changed so I can have a little more time for final preparations in Kigali.
Who are the athletes or countries that constitute tough competition for you?
I do not want to create an illusion in my head and end up being stunned by those I did not expect. My intention is to take every opponent on the start-list very seriously, then only focus on my goal and bringing it to life. So, in brief, I anticipate anyone to be a tough competitor.
Everyone expects Kenyans to be the favourites, and they are right. I equally have respect for them but they are not the rivals I am paying most attention on.  
The defending champion, Shelley, and his compatriots, as home athletes, are some of the athletes I must watch out for. Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania have also named strong rosters for the race.
Full 17-member Team Rwanda at Commonwealth Games
Cycling: Led by flag bearer Joseph Areruya, the cycling team is comprised of eight riders, six men and two female cyclists, Beatha Ingabire and Magnifique Manizabayo. The six-man Team Rwanda also includes; two-time Tour du Rwanda champion Valens Ndayisenga, Bonaventure Uwizeyimana, Jean Claude Uwizeye, Didier Munyaneza and Jean Paul Rene Ukiniwabo.
Athletics: Rwanda will be represented by a total of six track and field athletes led by 20-year old star Salome Nyirarukundo in women’s 10,000m category. Other athletes are; marathoner Nizeyimana, Christopher Tuyishime and James Sugira in men’s 5000m category, Beatha Nishimwe (1500m) as well as Alice Ishimwe in women’s 800 metres.
Beach volleyball: Reigning African champions Charlotte Nzayisenga and Denise Mutatsimpundu will not only represent Rwanda but also Africa as a whole. The pair of beach volleyball stars has been drawn in Group C alongside New Zealand, Singapore and Vanuata
Para-Powerlifting: Rwanda will be represented by one athlete in powerlifting events: Vedaste Niyonzima, in Para-Powerlifting (designed for heavy lifters with disabilities).

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