RWANDA Athletics Federation (RAF) has applauded middle distance runners Félicien Muhitira and Jean Hakizimana after their heroic performance at the 14th Semi-marathon International de Brazzaville in the Republic of Congo on Monday.
The 22-year-old track and field runner won the half marathon using 1 hour, 4 minutes and 31 seconds and his compatriot Hakizimana took bronze in 1:08:17, which was 9 seconds behind silver medalist Wilson Kipotich from Kenya.
The APR athletics club star Muhitira becomes the first Rwandan to win the annual competition, which has been dominated by Kenyans in the previous editions.
The one-day multi-category race attracted over 500 participants, professionals and amateurs, from all over the world.
Muhitira has a personal best of 1:02:31 that he posted from the 2014 IAAF World Half-marathon championships in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Speaking to Times Sport on Wednesday, RAF president Paul Munyandamutsa saluted the duo and tipped them to win more competitions before end of the season.
"Muhitira and Hakizimana did an incredible job in Brazzaville. It's a win for the country. They are talented and focused athletes. I believe there is no limit to what they can achieve if they keep working hard," Munyandamutsa said.
He added, "With the limited means that we have, we will keep supporting them in whichever way possible to realize their dreams."
Muhitira told the press in Brazzaville that," I am very happy to win this competition. This win is a dedication to my country. What makes it even more special is winning it for the first time after years of domination by Kenyans and Ethiopians."
Muhitira walked away with US$4,500 (about Rwf.3.76m) in cash prize while Hakizimana, who also finished third in the men's half marathon at this year's Kigali International Peace Marathon, pocketed US$2,500 (Rwf2 million).
Meanwhile, it was an all-Kenyan affair in women's and junior men's category. Agnes Barsossio clocked (1:11:52) to win a gold medal while compatriots Bornes Jerikrui (1:12:01) and Josephine Chepkoech (1:15:00) finished second and third respectively.