Rwanda: Tokyo 2020 Games - Are Rwandan Athletes Ready?

Rwanda is represented by two marathoners Marthe Yankurije (L) and John Hakizimana. They are seen here training in Hachimantai City last week. / Courtesy.

After a one-year delay due to the pandemic, the XXXII Olympic Games are finally here! Over 11,000 athletes from 205 countries are now looking forward to gracing the Tokyo 2020 stage.

The event's opening ceremony is due Friday, July 23, at Tokyo Olympic Stadium.

The opening ceremony is an occasion for the host nation to show off the best of its culture, introduce the competing countries, and generally get everyone in the mood for a sporting event that brings the world together.

This edition's ceremony, however, will see all athletes from across the globe parading near the empty Tokyo Olympic Stadium after the organiers announced that no fans will be allowed to attend the events due to the spike in Covid-19 cases in Japan.

Rwanda has five representatives in Tokyo including cyclist and flag-bearer Moise Mugisha, marathoners John Hakizimana and Marthe Yankurije as well as swimming duo Eloi Maniraguha and Alphonsine Agahozo.

The athletes joined the Olympic Village in Tokyo on Monday, July 19, after spending a two-week training camp in Hachimantai City.

They all share a common mission to perform well at the Tokyo 2020 Games edition, and hopefully end the country's long wait for a first Olympic medal since Rwanda debuted at the 1984 Olympic Games.

According to the schedule, cyclist Moise Mugisha will be the first Rwandan athlete to compete in the Games in the men's road race taking place on Saturday, July 24, just a day after the opening ceremony.

Meanwhile, swimmers Eloi Maniraguha and Alphonsine Agahozo will both compete on July 30 at Tokyo Aquatic Stadium while Marthe Yankurije, on the same day, run in the women's 5,000m category race at Tokyo Olympic Stadium.

John Hakizimana will be the last to compete, in men's full marathon race, on the final day of the Olympic Games (August 8) at Sapporo Odori Park.

Jean de Dieu Mukundiyukuri, the head of delegation, told Weekend Sport that all athletes are doing well and ready for the challenge.

"All our athletes are in good condition and have been training every day since arriving in Tokyo. They've been given everything needed to prepare well for the Olympic Games and we hope to see them representing the country well," Mukundiyukuri told this publication on Thursday.

Rwanda's wait for an Olympic medal since 1984 continues and all eyes are now the five athletes to end the 37-year jinx.

Of the five Rwandans, only Hakizimana won a ticket for the Tokyo 2020 while the rest were offered invitations to the games after failing to secure the required minima in their respective disciplines.

However, Mukundiyukuri said that, with the current preparations package, Rwandan athletes have been pushing their limits to win an Olympic silverware for the country.

"The Olympic Games is a complex event that only brings the best athletes from across the globe. Our athletes are here to compete against the best, and are working hard to be at their best prior to competing. I don't think they will have any excuse because they've had enough preparations."

After two weeks of training in Hachimantai City, the Rwandan delegation joined other delegations at the Toyo Olympic Village on Monday.

At the Olympic Village, athletes are given access to training grounds as well as the venues from which they will be competing.

Earlier this week, for instance, Mugisha had three days of training in Fuji, the same area where the men's road race will have a finish-line. Fuji is located in the South West of Tokyo.

Tokyo 2020 in numbers

Countries: 205

Venues: 37

Disciplines: 50

Athletes: 11,091

Olympic events: 339 events in 33 sports

Independent Teams: Two, including 10 Refugee Olympic athletes and one Independent Olympic Athlete.

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