Rwanda para taekwondo national team has started early preparations with optimism to retain the title when they head to Agidir, Morocco for the 3rd African Para Taekwondo Championship set for March 28.
At last year's second edition of the annual continental showpiece, the hosts and then debutants Rwanda prevailed to finish top of the 17-team competition with a total of six medals won; 2 gold, 3 silver and 1 bronze medal respectively.
Spain, 2 gold medals and 1 silver medal, finished second while Uzbekistan (2 gold medals and 2 bronze medals) finished in the third place.
In an exclusive interview with Times Sport on Sunday, newly elected Rwanda Taekwondo Federation (RTF) president, Placide Mugabo confidently said, "The team started preparations early and we are doing all we can to be supportive each passing day. The target is to win as many medals as possible, but most importantly, to retain the title of the overall best team of the tournament."
"We have acquired a lot more experience and exposure to bigger competitions out of Africa; we also have confidence in the talent and abilities of our players. No doubt we will be well represented in Morocco." The former national team captain added.
The five-member team in preparations for the continental championship at Amahoro stadium includes; last year's gold medallists Jean de la Croix Nikwigize and Consolee Rukundo, silver medallist Jean Claude Niringiyimana, Jean Marie Vianney Bizumuremyi who claimed bronze and Jean Pierre Manirakiza who also won a bronze medal in the K42 Male under-61kg.
African Para Taekwondo Championship, a competition reserved for martial artists with physical disabilities and impairments, is Africa's biggest and most prestigious tournament of such kind and even attracts non-African nations.
Last year in Kigali, a total eight countries namely; Spain, Uzbekistan, United States of America, Spain, France, Germany, Uzbekistan, Serbia were non-African participants while Africa had nine countries which are; Nigeria, Lesotho, Morocco, DR Congo, Burundi, Ethiopia, Ghana, Comoros and the hosts Rwanda. Niger, Austria and Mozambique pulled out of the event at the last minute.
The team is under tutelage of the head coach Irene Bagire, assisted by Eugene Ntawangundi.