Rwanda’s beach volleyball team will have to wait another four years for another attempt to qualify for the Olympics after failing in their latest bid to book a place in the London Games.
As hosts, Rwanda disappointed in the just concluded Africa beach volleyball championships held over the weekend in Rubavu district and was won by Mauritius, who beat Kenya in the gold medal match played on Saturday.
The championship was being used as qualifier for the London Games for the winner, and the two finalists will also represent Africa in the Word championships later this year in Canada.
Rwanda kicked off their campaign with defeat against South Africa 3-1 in the opening match of the two-day tournament on Friday. The home team also lost Algeria 3-1 in the semi-final.
The home public gave full support their teams at the Gisenyi Continental Palm Beach hotel where hosts were knocked out in the first round. Rwanda secured fifth place after beating the Democratic Republic of Congo 3-1 in the classification match.
Inexperience against vast experience
Rwanda was beaten by South Africa with 4-1 match victories to deny the hosts a in the later stages. The first match was between Rwanda A against South Africa A and S.A won 2-1 (21-12, 19-21, 15-13), then South Africa B beat Rwanda A 2-0 (21-10, 21-17).
Rwanda B lost again to South Africa A 2-0 (20-22, 18-21), before Rwanda B beat South Africa B 2-0 (23-21, 21-7) to advance to the semi-finals, where they lost Algeria 3-1.
Rwanda’s youngsters Charlotte Nzayisenga and Denise Mputatsimpundu were the focal interest of fans.
The pair played against the experienced All Africa Games Silver medallists South Africa’s duo of Palesa Sekhonyana and Randy Williams 3-1 (21-12, 19-21, 15-13) in the opening match, whereby South Africa’s .
South Africa’s second team that consisted of Amelia Luyt and Natasha Strydom secured their country’s second win over Rwanda’s Emilienne Uwineza and Judith Hakizimana in 2-0 (21-18, 21-13), before going on to also win the third match 2-0 (21-10, 21-18) against the same opponents, a result that more less eliminated the hosts.
Despite the defeat against the experienced South Africa, the Rwanda’s young national beach volleyball team of Nzayisenga and Mutatsimpundu offered a remarkable performance.
South Africa’s star player Sekhonyana said, “It was very hard to play against them (the Rwandan duo). They’re real fighters on field and if they continue to work hard they will become very good players”.
As for their coach Paul Bitok, he said, “We have a very young team, the youngest being just 18 years (Charlotte), I selected these young players to build a team for the future.
“Honesty, at the moment, we are may be not ready to be champions of Africa but we are preparing for the future,” added the former Kenyan international volleyball player.
He added, “We played against South Africa, silver medallists at the All African Games and we are proud that our second team got one win, and if we continue to build their game for the coming years, they have the potential to go places”.
Uwineza (Emillienne), the team captain admitted Rwanda did not qualify for Olympics Games because of “luck of experience”.
“I think we did well for our experience but we want to improve and do more training which will help us to build our game and play on high level,” she said.
Mauritius will represent Africa in London after beaten Kenya in the final on a golden set. The two teams were draw with two sets apiece, which forced the match into the golden set, which Mauritius won to secure their ticket to the London Games.
The Technical Director in Beach Volleyball in International Federation of Volleyball (FIVB) Angelo Squeo commended Rwanda organising a flawless tournament.
“Am proud of how Rwanda has organised this event and I hope Rwanda’s Beach Volleyball improves further to the international level,” the Croat said.
The tournament was organised by Rwanda Volleyball Federation and sponsored by the ministry of Sports and Culture and Rwanda Olympic Committee.