// First appearance, first medal, major progress for Rwanda - International Table Tennis Federation

Tournaments

04 Aug 2019

A first round men’s singles exit for Eric Niyonizigiye at the 2019 ITTF Africa Cup in Lagos on Sunday 4th August may appear a disappointment; in reality it was quite the opposite.

Eric Niyonizigiye is from Rwanda; the fact that he is competing in the tournament and progressed to the last 16 is a major step forward not only personally but for one of the continent’s smallest countries.

by Olalekan Okusan, ITTF-Africa Press Officer

Furthermore, he played against the event’s leading players; in the group stage he lost to Nigeria’s Quadri Aruna, the top seed (11-4, 11-1, 11-5), finishing in second position, before in the opening round suffering at the hands of Egypt’s Ahmed Ali Saleh, the no.2 seed and three times the tournament’s winner (11-1, 11-6, 11-8, 11-6).

However, there was more than consolation, representing the appropriately named Vision Table Tennis Club, lining up alongside colleagues Aime Bushema, François Ishimwe, and Elie Kayotare; earlier in the proceedings in Lagos, a bronze medal had been secured in the men’s event at the 2019 ITTF Africa Club Championships.

Again that may not appear a resounding success but four years ago, table tennis lay dormant in Rwanda; in 2016 John Bosco Birungi was elected President of the Rwanda Table Tennis Federation, times changed. There was a new energy, a vibrant approach.

“Since 2016 when a new leader took over, things have started looking up for table tennis. Now schools are supported with equipment while coaches are also sent to schools to train the students. We have also organised regional tournaments which have ignited interest in table tennis. Under the new leadership of John Bosco Birungi, table tennis will continue to grow and we will be able to rub shoulders with some of the best in the continent.” Elie Kayotare

Undoubtedly, the podium finish in the 2019 ITTF Africa Club Championships is a major boost to morale; especially as it was Rwanda’s debut in the competition.

“We never imagined we would be mounting the podium in our first outing at the African Club Championships. It was a good feeling particularly for table tennis back home in Rwanda and I am sure with this feat, the Ministry of Sports will start giving table tennis the needed support now. Our federation has tried to raise the status of the sport and we hope this performance in Lagos will bring good tidings to the sport in Rwanda.” Kayitare Elie

Similarly, the success has proved highly motivating for François Ishimwe.

“I think my coming to Lagos and playing against some of the best players in Africa has once again given me confidence that with more practice I can be among the best in the continent. I am particularly excited about meeting the best player in Africa, Quadri Aruna; for me, he has been an inspiration to many of us. He is such a humble person; his attitude on and off the table motivates us. I know that with more exposure and training I can compete favourably in Africa.” François Ishimwe

Proud players and in addition sitting watching matters unfold, a proud president.

“As the President of the Rwanda Table Tennis Federation, I’m happy that in our first major continental event, we go home with a bronze medal. I’m extremely proud of the boys! This is a great achievement and is a result of the hard work put into the game over the past three years. It’s something that the younger kids in Rwanda, who are just starting to learn the game, can look up to as they develop. John Bosco Birungi

Major progress for Rwanda, most importantly the country sets an example for Africa.

 

2019 ITTF Africa Cup Rwanda
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Day 3 - 2019 ITTF Africa Cup