Rwandan athletes get town’s VIP treatment

THERE was a warm welcome for the Rwandan Paralympic team at an official civic ceremony in Bury St Edmunds as they were given the VIP treatment.

The 14 members of the squad along with their six coaches and officials were put in the spotlight at the event held at the town’s Apex, on Thursday.

It was just one of the many invitations and appearances they have already made in the town since their arrival last Sunday with others lined up before they head off to the Olympic Village towards the end of the month.

Just like their Olympic colleagues they are staying in the town and using the facilities at the Abbeygate Leisure Centre, in Beetons Way, as their training base.

They were welcomed by the Mayor of St Edmundsbury Tim Marks; Robert Everitt, St Edmundsbury Borough Council cabinet member; Jeremy Pembroke, leader of Suffolk County Council, with all of them being presented with special mementoes plus a quilt for the team.

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Mr Marks said: “We hope that you will enjoy Suffolk and Bury and get to see some of the historic buildings we have in the town.

“You should be proud of your achievements and being able to be on the world stage and we wish you every success.”

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And Mr Pembroke added: “It is a great honour for us to have you in the county.”

The deputy high commissioner for Rwanda Linda Kalimba paid thanks to the town for hosting the squad saying that they were “pleased” to be returning to Bury “because of the warm reception” that the Olympic team had already received.

Earlier in the day the squad, which consists of volleyballers Dominique Bizimana, Jean Rukundo, Jean Bosco Ngizwenimana, Emile Vuningabo, James Rutikanga, Jean Baptiste Gahamanyi, Fulgence Hagenimana, Eric Ngirinshuti, Callixte Twagirayezu, Jean Baptiste Murema, Vincent Tuyisenge; plus 400m and 800m runner Hermas Muvunya; 1500m runner Theoneste Nsengimana; and powerlifter Theogene Hakizimana, were at Southgate Community Centre, on the Nowton Estate, to meet and greet people from seven local churches.

More than 60 people attended and organiser Rev Peter Gibson, who is both minister of Southgate Church and chair of Churches Together in Bury and district, said: “We were delighted to meet the paralympians and wish them good fortune in the upcoming Games.”

Just getting to the Paralympics has been a challenge. In the beginning obtaining funding was difficult, but now they had the support of the Government.

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