The name Hanani Uwineza needs no introduction when it comes to triathlon in Rwanda.
Triathlon is a multisport that is increasingly becoming popular since its introduction in the country in 2012.
Last year, she tormented her main rivals to reap big almost in every competition on the 2018 local multisport calendar.
This week, in an exclusive interview, Uwineza had a chat with Saturday Sport about her passion and secret to her success as a triathlete.
Born on January 4, 1995 in Gisenyi Sector, Rubavu District, Uwineza is the first born in a family of three; one boy and two girls.
Nicknamed the Iron Female Triathleteby the local media, the 25-year old is a graduate from Kigali-based University of Tourism, Technology and Business Studies (UTB) where she majored in tourism.
Being born in Rubavu, a town on the north shore of Lake Kivu, in the northwestern part of Rwanda, she says motivated her to start swimming at a young age.
“I started swimming and riding bicycles for fun at an early age, so when triathlon was introduced in Rubavu by the national triathlon federation in 2014, I immediately joined and I have never regretted that decision, even for once. Since then, my passion for the sport has kept growing.”
The Rubavu triathlon club athlete says that what is interesting about the multisport is its sequential endurance races from; swimming to bicycling and running.
“The switching-over time between each event, known as transition, is included in the overall finish time. You need to devote equal effort and technique to control your pulse in order to succeed among the best,” she told this publication on Thursday.
Uwineza, who dominated last year’s Gisenyi Beach Triathlon as well as Rubavu and Nyamata Women’s Day Triathlon competitions, believes that weather conditions matter in any given competition, but they have the biggest impact on triathletes compared to other disciplines.
She says that her most memorable performance to date is when she competed in Egypt against the continent’s best to finish third in 2014. And her second was winning an international triathlon competition in DR Congo the following year, which was held in Goma.
The athlete, however, admits that she is most challenged in water because it needs extra effort, which can sometimes make you lose recollection while swimming across a vast distance in a lake or a river.
Uwineza says that she derived the passion to engage in competitive sports from her father, Imiri Bugabo, who is a former karate player.
“My family has always been supportive, they do not get tired of seeing me carrying the country’s flag and some of them go an extra mile to come to some of my competitions,” she pointed out.
Above and beyond her friends and family, Uwineza applauds her coach Andre Okenge for encouragement.
Okenge insists that his athlete’s success is down to “hard work and spirit to never let go”.
“Uwineza holds the future of multisport in Rwanda, I have never seen a female athlete in Rwanda as courageous and combative as she is. The success she enjoys is down to her hard work and commitment to keep improving,” said Okenge.
When asked about the message she would love to pass on to young girls, Uwineza said, “I encourage them to believe in themselves, with hard work and passion they can make it against all the odds. I am always available to support young girls in multisport.”
In her free time, Uwineza says that she loves to listen to music and catch up with football. She is an avid supporter of her home town team Etincelles and Spain giants Barcelona.