Karate: Rwanda's Kata trio show resilience as they win bronze in Continental Championships

The trio of Jean Claude Munyaburanga (left), Alphan Nsabimana (center) ad Thomas Habanabakize (right) were the first home players to win medals. Rwandans managed to collect four medals on Day One of the African Championships at Intare Arena yesterday. /Sam Ngendahimana

The national team's male team Kata squad of Alphan Nsabimana, 24, Thomas Habanabakize, 25, and Jean Claude Munyaburanga, 23, on Friday were the first to put in an astounding performance that reassured local fans.

They lost their first match but kept their cool to bag bronze on day one of the ongoing Continental Championships.

Kata is display of a set sequence of moves in a pre-arranged fight against imaginary opponents.

Day one of the three-day day one of the three-day 17th African Seniors Karate Championships and the 9th African Juniors Karate Championships was tough for Rwanda but the Zen Karate-Do Club trio was inspiring. 

The trio from Rubavu’s Zen Karate-Do Club faced it rough when first paired against a world class team from Egypt. They lost their first match but they were resilient.

After the defeat to the mighty Egyptians, they got a second chance and they knew they had to win it at all cost. And they did just that.

In the ensuing repechage, a heat of a competition in which eliminated contestants have another chance to qualify for the next round or the final, they outclassed a trio from Benin to progress and compete against Cameroon.

It is the win against the men from Yaoundé that guaranteed a third place finish for Rwanda’s Male Kata team.

Bronze for two fighting juniors

Two junior female fighters won bronze despite their respective semi-final defeats in the tough competition. The duo were not paired in the first two rounds and only fought in the semis after their respective bypasses in the pairing system.

In the female -48kg category, Marie Solange Mukangoboka lost 4-0 against South Africa's Zahra Kader in the second round of juniors' kumite contest but grabbed bronze.

In the -59kg category, Jovia Umunezero, fought bravely but was defeated by Egypt's Akram Nour Soliman (2-0).  Nonetheless, Umunezero also won bronze for her third place finish.

Halifa fights bravely, wins silver

In the juniors’ individual -61kg Kumite contests, Halifa Niyitanga, 18, who grabbed bronze at the Algeria 3rd African Youth Games in July, fought fearlessly and won his first two matches.

The teenager convincingly trounced two opponents. Niyitanga first proved doubters totally wrong when he defeated Mozambique’s Igor Chissico with 7-0 points.

The youngster from Kigali's [Kagugu] Flying Eagle Karate Club moved on to outclass South Africa’s Jody Williams (2-0).

This second win meant he was to do battle in a final where a win would bring Rwanda's first gold in any category, and a loss, the second ever silver in an international event.

When the final came around, late in the evening, Niyitanga gave his all against the more experienced Saad Gamal Eldin of Egypt, but lost 2-3.

Egypt is ranked number one on the continent and has world class Karatekas who often tame opponents from Europe and elsewhere.

Egyptian expert Hashim Mahmoud Mohamed Hashim who is heading the national squad’s technical team again assured the team that they are very capable of doing wonders and, in spite of the challenges given the very tough opposition, the fighters are ready to go compete.

Gold is their number one objective. No Rwandan fighter has ever won gold in an international event. But silverware has already been bagged, the first in Algeria in July and the second by Halifa on Friday. 

Nearly 300 of the best African Karatekas from 25 countries are in Kigali to clash for gold and glory at the 2018 UFAK Senior Karate Championships that end Sunday evening.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw 

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