Rwanda: Hakizimana in Intensive Trainings Ahead of Tokyo Games

(file photo).

Middle and long-distance runner John Hakizimana is undergoing intensive training sessions as he gears up for the forthcoming Olympic Games slated in Tokyo, Japan in July.

The APR athlete, 25, is training in Gicumbi district, in the Northern Province in a hilly area located at 1 800 metres altitude.

As he continues to train, Hakizimana has hired a personal coach who is helping him during training sessions with his brother and long-distance road runner Robert Kajuga, who retired from athletics two years ago.

Hakizimana is one of two athletes who qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Games after winning a bronze medal at the 2019 World Military Games in Wuhan, China.

His participation in the Tokyo 2020 Games will be his first experience ever to compete with the world's elite in the Olympic Games, just like his brother did.

"It's going to be my first experience competing in the Olympic Games and I have a feeling I will make my family, my club and my country proud," Hakizimana said.

Rwanda has never won a medal at the Olympic Games, a feat Hakizimana is afraid could repeat itself in Tokyo due to the 'low level' of preparations.

"If anyone can be honest with you, he won't tell you that a Rwandan athlete is in pole position to win a medal in the Olympic Games because our level of performance is still low. We also still lag behind in terms of preparing future candidates for a medal. If I am to win it, I could only win it by chance," he told Times Sport.

Rwanda's bad record in the Olympics, however, does not discourage the athlete to work hard.

"I have a feeling that I will one day win a medal at world-class athletics competitions but, to win it, I won't prepare for it from Rwanda but rather out of the country," he said.

Hakizimana possesses a personal best 1:02:26 in half-marathon which he posted at the 2018 IAAF World Half Marathon Championship staged in Valencia, Spain and 2h 11 minutes 19 secs in the marathon category.

Born in Nyagatare District, Hakizimana started running in August 2015 for APR's junior team.

His quick rise in marathon running helped him qualify to compete at different international athletics competitions, especially in long-distance categories, including Kigali International Peace Marathon and East African Military Games among others.

A few days before taking part in the 2016 MTN Peace Marathon, Hakizimana lost his father who died of illness.

Despite the loss of his father, Hakizimana held on and competed at the race. He, however, ended the race on a low note as he was still fighting to overcome the situation.

He finished third in the following edition of the same competition.

His impressive performance attracted the attention of Italian athletics side Castello Firenze which signed him in July 2018.

However, he parted ways with the club after he helped APR qualify for the 2019 Military World Games in China after he represented the club in the Military Games held in Kenya.

The Military World Games is a multi-sport event for military sports people organized by International Military Sports Council (CISM).

The Games have been held since 1995, although championships for separate sports had been held for some years.

Although he still plays for the army side, Hakizimana told Times Sport that he is in negotiation with an Italian side but only after the Olympic Games slated in Tokyo, Japan.

"My main target is to do my best to raise the Rwandan flag high and make my country proud. I may not win a medal but improving my personal best would also be a great achievement. That level can help attract established agents and clubs as well as be invited in bigger competitions in the future," Hakizimana said.

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