Bury St Edmunds: Rwandan Olympians ‘happy’ to be in town

ATHLETES from the Rwandan Olympic team have spoken of how they are settling into their Bury St Edmunds training camp as they prepare for the Games later this month.

The team, which currently consists of four athletes and three coaches arrived in the town on Friday and will stay locally until July 18 when they intend to leave for the Olympic Village in Stratford, east London.

The athletes are swimmer Alphonsine Agahozo, who will compete in the 50m freestyle, marathon runner Jean Pierre Mvuyekure, judo competitor Yannick Fred Sekamana and long distance runner Robert Kajuga who is set to take part in 10,000m.

Mountain cyclist Adrien Niyonshuti has also qualified for London 2012 but will be unable to join the pre-games training camp as he is competing in the world championships in the US.

Bury St Edmunds is one of 200 pre-games training camps in the UK, hosting international Olympic teams so they can train and acclimatise to the UK before going to the Olympic Village, and has been preparing for the arrival of the athletes for three years.

Mr Sekamana said that the team have been delighted by the welcome it has received. He said: “We knew we would be made welcome but we didn’t expect people to be as friendly as they have been. The training facilities are excellent and where we are staying is nice and calm, which is good for our preparation.”

Mr Kajuga added: “We can’t wait for the Games and all our family and friends will be watching back home.”

Most Read

The athletes have already been to a number of community events including a special service at St Edmundsbury Cathedral attended by the Bishop of Kigali and the Deputy High Commissioner of Rwanda on July 8.

They will also be training alongside West Suffolk Swimming Club, The St Edmunds Pacers and West Suffolk Athletics Club and using Bury St Edmunds Leisure Centre as their training base. Warren Smyth, chief executive of Abbeycroft Leisure, which runs the Centre in partnership with St Edmundsbury Borough Council, said all the staff were very excited about hosting the team.

He said: “Our staff and the local community have worked very hard to ensure that the team will feel at home here in Bury St Edmunds and will have a fantastic training experience.

“The Rwanda National Olympic Committee chose Bury St Edmunds because they felt at home here and were pleased that people would support Rwanda as their second team.”

The Leisure Centre will be open for business as usual when the Rwandan team arrive as the athletes want to train as part of the community. The Rwandan National Paralympic Team will arrive in August to train.

The Pre-Games training camp has inspired ‘Go Rwanda’, a project set up to ensure that the legacy of camp stretches across the borough far beyond 2012. It has seen projects in education, sport, business, and culture helping to build a long-lasting relationship between the town, the borough and Rwanda.