2018 has been a year full of sheer delights and despairs across all sporting disciplines. Remarkable achievements were recorded but so were disappointments and bad memories.
As the New Year looms, Saturday Sportlooks back at some of the moments that shaped the local sports sector in four disciplines namely; golf, rugby, motorsport and cricket.
“The 2018 season has been a great success for local golf and golfers. And at the core of it all, it was the new Kigali Golf Club. 2019 will even be busier,” Kigali Golf Club captain, Davis Kashaka, told this publication on Thursday.
Since the official inauguration of the 9-hole state-of-the-art Kigali Golf Club in May, the facility has hosted a series of competitions – almost on a monthly basis – including the annual Rwanda Golf Open, which was claimed by Ernest Ndayisenga last month.
Ndayisenga became the first Rwandan golfer to win the annual tournament since 2014 when it was scooped by former Rwanda’s number 1 Jean Baptiste Hakizimana – currently based in the United States.
According to Kashaka, Kigali Golf Club has set an ambitious target of becoming a top destination for golf tourism on the continent.
In August, Team Rwanda braved the odds to finish in a historic second position at this year’s East African Golf Challenge in Mombasa, Kenya – only behind champions Uganda in a week-long competition that was contested by eight countries.
Rwandan had finished in fourth position at the 2017 edition in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
For the rugby fraternity, and the rugby federation in particular, 2018 was full of mixed fortunes; Thousand Hills pulled out of the league, the national team – Silverbacks – earned a shock upgrade to Africa Silver Cup and the local rugby got a new executive committee.
The year 2019 will start with a new committee, chaired by former referee and veteran national team player Thracisse Kamanda, in charge of the local rugby governing body for four years.
Elected unopposed, Kamanda and his team replaced that of Alex Araire who did not seek a second term during the November elections.
For a historic first time, Kigali Sharks won the national league after beating Resilience Rugby Clu 27-14 in the final. However, what remained as the highlight of the season was the surprise withdrawal of Gatenga-based Thousand Hills just a few weeks before end of the season – allegedly due to lack of ambulance and medical staff, for emergencies, during league games.
Back in May, the national team, Silverbacks, staged up as below-par performance at this year’s Africa Bronze Cup in Ghana as they finished third out of countries that also included the hosts, Mauritius and Lesotho.
“Compared to how our opponents prepared for the competition, for instance Ghana, we still have a lot to do to reach their level. We were notably overpowered,” Kamanda, then Secretary-General of Rwanda Rugby Federation, was quoted as saying after the tournament.
But despite the despairs in Ghana, that did not deter the Confederation of African Rugby from promoting Rwanda to Africa Silver Cup in November – thanks to the tournament’s new upgrade from four teams to an eight-team format.
When they make their debut in Africa Silver Cup next year, Aime Claude Ezour’s Silverbacks will be up against Botswana, Ivory Coast, Madagascar, Senegal, Lesotho, Ghana and Mauritius.
It was a remarkable year for Rwanda motorsport, with the country hosting the Confederation of Africa Countries Motorsport (C.A.C.M.S.) congress for the very first time in August as Jean Todt, the International Automobile Federation (FIA) president, officially launched Go-karting in Rwanda.
According to Rwanda Automobile Association (RAC), Go-karting is aimed at boosting social interest in motorsport, and it is expected to help Rwandan youth to start racing at early age.
In the national rally championship, the season belonged to Burundian Din Imtiaz as he dethroned Jean Claude Gakwaya to claim this year’s title this month with 85 points, three ahead of then reigning champion Gakwaya.
Former champion Davite Giancarlo also made a surprise comeback in the championship as he clinched the 2018 Mountain Gorilla Rally in October.
Following the official inauguration – by President Paul Kagame – of Gahanga Cricket Stadium in October 2017, the facility started hosting competitions this year. Among others, it accommodated the ICC World T20 Africa B Qualifiers in July.
The hosts finished at the bottom of the four-nation competition, behind Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Out of six games, Rwanda did not manage to get a single victory.
“The stadium is a huge development, especially for young talents. Since its inauguration, a good number of children regularly turn up for practice,” said Emmanuel Byirigiro, the Rwanda Cricket Association’s General Manager.
The national junior team also feebly performed at the ICC World Cup Africa Qualifiers Division 2 tournament in South Africa in August, hence failing to advance to the second round.
On domestic scene, the year 2018 belonged to Challengers Cricket Club as they dominated rivals Telugu Royals to win a record fifth V.R NAIDU T20 tournament’s title in May before lifting the league title earlier this month. They beat Telugu both finals.
Batsman Uwimanishaka dies
It was a disconsolate Sunday evening of June 3 that the local cricket fraternity learned of the sudden death of young batsman Prince Uwimanishaka, aged 21, at Kibagabaga Hospital.
The former Rwanda international was part of the national team that played Zambia in a series of T20 friendly tests in May. May his soul rest in peace.