When it comes to women’s cricket in Rwanda, the name Cathia Uwamahoro needs no introduction.
Last year in February, the 24-year old put her skills and endurance to test, batting for 26 hours in the cricket net to set a Guinness World Record for the longest net session by a woman.
According to Alby Shale, the Project Director of the Rwanda Cricket Stadium Foundation (RCSF), the publicity of Uwamahoro's world record generated a little over Rwf10 million (£10,000) towards the country’s first cricket arena’s completion.
The stadium was officially inaugurated last October by President Paul Kagame.
The world record for the longest net session in the men’s cricket also belongs to a Rwandan, Eric Dusingizimana, who batted for 51 hours in the nets two years ago – with proceeds also going into the cricket cause.
Cricket has not only helped Uwamahoro to defy the odds as a female athlete but also as a girl who was singlehandedly raised by her mother after his father was killed during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. She was barely six-month-old at the time.
“To me, cricket means more than just a sport, it’s also my source of hope. I was in despair, with no clear purpose of life before joining this beautiful sport,” she said.
The national women’s cricket team captain had a chat with Saturday Sport last Thursday, during which she addressed a wide-range of issues.
Who is Uwamahoro?
Born on August 5, 1993 to Corneille Rudahinyuka (RIP) and Thacienne Umulisa in Gisozi, Gasabo District in the City of Kigali, Uwamahoro was born and raised the lone child of her parents.
She would lose her father during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
The young Uwamahoro endured the challenges of growing up with a single mother, who did “everything possible” to give her a decent upbringing and decent education.
Uwahoro attended Gasave (in Gisozi) and Kivugiza (in Nyamirambo) primary schools before going to ESA-Gikondo for her O-Level studies. She went to IPR-Nyandungu for her A-Level studies pursuing Computer Science.
Currently, she is a second-year student at University of Kigali, majoring in Information Technology.
Her early cricket days
Despite cricket having been introduced in Rwanda in 2000, Uwamahoro was not aware the sport was present in the country until 2008, the same year she joined as a rookie. Prior to playing cricket, the soft spoken youngster was a basketball player and a key figure for her school team.
When she joined cricket, there was no women’s team at the time but this did not deter her as she started to train with male players.
“I first got to witness cricket with my eyes in 2008 and I immediately picked interest. There was no women’s team then, so I started training with the boys, which I believe help me adapt quickly,” she recalls.
Since then she became one of the female players in the country. A few months after ditching basketball for cricket, she was named on the first national team that took part in the ICC Africa Women’s T20 tournament staged in Nairobi, Kenya.
“After that the tournament, I realised my potential and decided to the take the game more seriously. By then, cricket in Rwanda was still at a low level and we performed poorly but I was very happy to represent my country,” a smiling Uwamahoro says.
The following year (2009) she featured for the U19 national team in the ICC Africa U19 Women Championship in Dar-es-salaam, Tanzania before drawing the curtains on her junior career in 2011 after four years of several international competitions with the national Under-19 team.
Uwamahoro has been a Charity Cricket Club player since its establishment in 2013. Last Sunday, the assistant captain and star batter helped her side to their third VR NAIDU T20 title outsmarting archrivals White Clouds in the final at Gahanga Oval.
Since joining Charity CC six years ago, the world record holder has been instrumental in her side’s success, helping them to at least ten titles including; three VR NAIDU T20 titles, three UAE Exchange tournaments, one Blue Belly title, two Computer Point trophies and RCA T10 silverware.
Her individual achievements include; being voted as Charity CC best player of the year for the past three seasons, VR Naidu T20 player of the match awards on five occasions, 2015 RCA expatriate most sixes, best batter and best fielder, and a RCA T10 MVP award.
She has represented her country in many international competitions.
According to Uwamahoro, playing cricket not only keeps ladies fit but it also helps them to amplify their voices and break down barriers.
Guinness World Record feat
After breaking the world record for the longest batting in cricket nets in February 2017, Uwamahoro was surprised by the massive support she received from Rwandans both in Rwanda and abroad after her name entered the Guinness World Record books.
“I received overwhelming support and broke down when I remembered how I used to sit alone with my mother in our house in Gisozi. Many people congratulating me from Rwanda and abroad was both humbling and inspiring,” she says.
Uwamahoro is the Rwanda women cricket ambassador and has used this role to inspire young women towards striving for excellence in so many areas of life, including sports.
How teammates describe her
Claudine Uwase is the captain of Charity Cricket Club. She’s also Uwamahoro’s close friend and longtime teammate.
“Cathia is a special person and player,” she says of her teammate. “She is a great team player and brings motivation to her teammates when it matters the most. Off the pitch, she is a humorous and caring friend,” Uwase said.
Veronic Iriho captains Charity rivals White Clouds. She has been Uwamahoro’s teammate in the national team for the last four years.
“When Uwamahoro goes out to bat, we sit back and relax. She is one of the most important elements on the team,” Iriho described Uwamahoro.
The trio of Uwase, Uwamahoro and Iriho are currently leading the national team in preparations ahead of the forthcoming Genocide Memorial Tournament next month at Gahanda Cricket Stadium.