Bury St Edmunds: Rwandan Paralympic team start training in west Suffolk

THE RWANDAN Paralympic team who are now training in Bury St Edmunds have spoken of wanting to improve the image of their country through sport.

They arrived in the west Suffolk town on Sunday and will stay for 13 days, training at Bury St Edmunds Leisure Centre in Beetons Way.

The team is made up of 14 athletes and six coaches and officials including the Rwandan sitting volleyball team, Hermas Muvunyi (400m and 800m), Theoneste Nsengimana (1,500m), and powerlifter Theogene Hakizimana (82.50kg).

Speaking yesterday, members of the sitting volleyball team spoke of wanting Rwanda to be known for something other than the genocide, which took place in the 1990s.

Jean Marie Nsengiyumva, assistant coach for the sitting volleyball team, said: “Genocide, that is history, we cannot do anything, but we have to show that Rwanda can do other things, better things than genocide.”

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Dominique Bizimana added: “We are very committed to promote sports and also using sport to change the image of Rwanda.”

There is tough competition at the Games for the sitting volleyball team, but even just getting to the Paralympics has been a challenge. In the beginning obtaining funding was difficult, but Mr Bizimana said now in 2012 they had the support of the Government.

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This year is the first time Rwanda has qualified for a team sport at the Paralympics.

Mr Bizimana said: “We know all Sub-Saharan countries are waiting for our result... and the whole of Rwanda are behind their national team.”

As the country did not manage to achieve any medals at the Olympics, he added how the pressure was on for Rwanda’s Paralympic hopefuls.

“Hopefully with our two athletes in the athletics we are hoping one can have a medal because it seems the one in the 800 and 400 [metres] is very strong.”

The team are getting accustomed to life in Bury, where the weather has been a pleasant surprise. Celestin Nzeyimana, chef de mission, said: “I was thinking that we had to be covered everywhere because it’s very cold, but it’s nice weather.”

Yesterday afternoon the Rwandan sitting volleyball team took part in a friendly against Team GB which members of the public turned out to watch.

Team Rwanda are attending a number of community events over the next two weeks, including meeting and coaching students from Thurston Community College and Riverwalk School in Bury on Friday.

Bury St Edmunds Leisure Centre is open for business as usual as the athletes want to train as part of the community.

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