Rwanda Taekwondo turns focus on 2014 after African Champs cancellation
The Rwanda Taekwondo fraternity was left in tears after the Africa Taekwondo Union (AFTU) called off this year’s edition of the continental showpiece that was scheduled to be held in Kigali from November 22-25.
For a federation that celebrated its second anniversary earlier this year, everything was going according to plan until this one incident happened to almost ruin their effort all year to achieve continental approval.
Rwanda is currently ranked among the top five countries on the African continent and among the top 40 in the world after an impressive display at the World Taekwondo Championships in Mexico in July.
So when the news reached the Rwanda Taekwondo Federation (RTF) in September that Egypt had withdrawn from hosting the African event due to the political unrest in the country, this was received as an opportunity for Rwanda as they made a bid to host and were approved.
Preparations then started in high gear for both the national team and local organizing committee. The players trained every morning at Amahoro stadium and hoped to showcase their best against the other countries on home ground.
In fact, Rwanda dominated three categories including both the girls’ and boys’ events as well as the senior men’s category as Kenya won the senior women’s grouping.
“This is a big blow for the players because they have given this their all and really wanted to compete at this level in front of the home crowd,” admitted Martin Koonce, the technical director of RTF.
Rwanda was to present a team of 11 with three females and eight male players who also took part in the Ambassador’s Cup in October facing opponents from four other countries including Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya and Uganda.
Koonce said, “This was going to be an opportunity for us to face different opposition.”
The unfortunate part was that only four countries including Tunisia, Egypt, Uganda and the hosts had confirmed participation three weeks to the event and of the $100,000 tournament budget, only $11,000 was available with just over 20 days to the tournament.
However, Koonce is quick to note that Team Rwanda will bounce back from this distress and focus on the 2014 season which will see the Gorilla Open take place in the second week of January.
A host of several international events await the Rwandan team including the World Junior championships in Bangkok, Thailand which is a qualifying event for the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China.
“It will be the first time that the young ones are participating at this global event but we want them to get exposure and experience and see if they can qualify for the Youth Olympic Games in China. That will be awesome,” added an expectant Koonce.
Should the youngsters qualify for the China event then they can use the Youth Africa Games in Gaborone, Botswana as a preparation event, however, they will still take part even if they do not qualify for the Olympic event.
According to Koonce, next year will be yet another period for Rwanda Taekwondo to make it big in the region, continent and world stage.