All players on the national team are able to defeat any opponent but national coach Hashim Mahmoud Mohamed Hashim has said he is especially excited by a few youngsters, most of whom will be debutants on the international stage.
This was speaking during an interview on the sidelines of a training session ahead of the 17th African Seniors Karate Championships and the 9th African Juniors Karate Championships – the biggest and most glamorous African Karate event – beginning in Kigali on Friday.
Asked which players are showing most promise, he was quick to point out that “all of them are capable and more than eager to do the best they can for Rwanda.”
Despite admitting it will be a tough test when Rwandans face some of Africa’s heavy weights such as his native Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, and Senegal, Hashim mentioned some local fighters he thinks “can make Rwanda proud” both in individual and team fighting contests.
The first is Fiston Ntwari, 18, a youngster who has trounced many an opponent during local tournaments and now wants to impress at the upcoming bigger stage.
Hashim said: “I think there is a player in the under 60 category; Fiston, in whom I put very big hope.”
Then there is 19-year-old Theophile Twizere. Hashim said: “Another one is in the under 67 category, called Theo. If he doesn’t linger too much, but attacks very quickly, he will have good results.”
In the juniors category, Hashim also puts hope in Jovia Umunezero, 17, and Halifa Niyitanga, 18, who grabbed medals at last month’s the 3rd African Youth Games in Algeria.
Umunezero of Zen Karate-Do Club made history at the 3rd African Youth Games when she battled to win a Silver medal, the country’s first in an international tournament. Niyitanga (kumité -61kg) of Flying Eagle Karate-Do Club also grabbed a bronze in Algiers.
Mike Shyaka, 17, is another youngster to watch when the games begin, Hashim said.
The coach is also thinking about introducing Kata specialist Victor Shyaka Kaberuka of Kigali’s Lions Karate-Do Club into the fighting (Kumité) list. Kata, also part of the competition, is display of a set sequence of moves in a pre-arranged fight against imaginary opponents.
“Then there is [Victor] Shyaka. I am also considering the prospect of having Victor who is a Kata specialist in Kumite in the under 75 category. He is our big hope in Kata.”
National team captain Vanilly Ngarambe, 25, of Lions Karate-Do Club is another potential winner. Ngarambe, and two other senior members of the team, have been to several international contests and this will most likely be their best and last chance to shine for the country. Ngarambe will fight in the -84kg category.
Florence Niyigena, 23, is another player the coach mentioned.
“In the seniors we also have a young lady called Florence for the under 50,” Hashim said of Niyigena, a university student eager to make her mark on the international stage.
“We shall be playing in the individual section and the collective team. I hope that in the collective team we can make number three or second in the tournament.”
Hashim who arrived in the country on July 12 to help five local coaches fast-track the national squad’s readiness is working with a squad of 30 players including 12 ladies.