Khalifa Niyitanga, 19, and Maic Shyaka Ndutiye, 18, are the two players carrying Rwanda’s flag at the 18th African Seniors Karate Championships and 10th African Juniors Karate Championships in Gaborone, Botswana.
The event runs from July 9 through 15 at the University of Botswana Indoor Sports Centre, but real competitions start Friday.
The 2018 edition of the African Karate Championships was held in Kigali at Intare Arena.
Rwanda’s flag bearers in Gaborone are no pushovers and there is hope that they could, again, make the country proud.
During last year’s event, Rwanda’s first ever Karate gold from an international tournament was won by Ndutiye .
The young fighter was then making his debut on the international competitive stage but he convincingly defeated three opponents to become African champion in the male kumite (fighting) -55kg category.
Ndutiye rushed through his first two matches with ease. First, he tamed Joshua Timothy Coleman of Namibia 4-0 and then quickly dispatched Senegal’s Cambe Badara 8-0. In the final round where gold was up for grabs, he met Egypt’s Amr Alaa Aboukora and showed no fear; remarkably controlling the match to win 2-1.
His compatriot, Niyitanga, is another potential winner.
Last year, Niyitanga quickly defeated Mozambique’s Igor Chissico 7-0 during the -61kg individual kumite contests. His next fight was with South Africa’s Jody Williams who he trounced 2-0. He eventually lost, by a whisker, 2-3 in the final where he battled Egypt’s Saad Gamal Eldin.
In Gaborone, Khalifa will compete in the -67kg individual kumite category, with Ndutiye in the -60kg category. This means that the latter will not attempt to defend his 2018 title as he aims for higher accolades.
The teenagers traveled to Gaborone along with the national team head coach Noel Nkuranyabahizi and international referee Dieudonne Mwizerwa.
Mwizerwa is the only Rwandan recognized by the World Karate Federation (WKF) as a top Karate referee.