One last shot at London
Long-distance runner Robert Kajuga will have one last shot at the London Olympics Games when he competes in the 18th Africa Senior Championships in Porto-Novo (Benin) this week (June 27-July 1).
Last week, Kajuga – who has been labeled the future of Rwandan athletics – admitted that he was concerned about making the grade for the Games having failed to clear the qualifying mark in last month’s South Africa Open Championship in Pretoria. He clocked 28 minutes and 45 seconds in 10,000m, 40 seconds above the IAAF standard qualifying minimum.
At 27, Kajuga, who also finished third in last month’s International Peace Marathon (half marathon), is entering the ‘twilight of his career,’ as he describes it.
The endurance on the track becomes more demanding. After 2012, the idea of training for another Olympics isn’t particularly appealing so as it is, there is no margin for error in Benin.
Kajuga says that hitting the qualification minimum would be particularly gratifying considering three weeks of intensive training at the Ngogo high-altitude training center. He admits that the mere thought of taking part in the Olympics is enough inspiration for him.
“I came so close to qualifying in Pretoria back in May,” he says. “I am improving with every competition this season so I will be expecting to run a very fast race in Benin and qualify for the Games.”
“Every athlete dreams of running at the Worlds but the Olympics are the real deal. It does not get any better than that,” he told Focus Sports. “I have trained well and feel in perfect shape to get the required minimum – I have the qualifying marks in my legs, I can feel it.”
Fellow seasoned long-distance runner Claudette Mukasakindi (10,000m), Cyriaque Ndayikengurukiye (5000m), Emmanuel Ntakiyimana (400m) and Jean Kanyangara (100m & 200m) will also attempt to hit the minimum qualification time for the Games.
Among the top athletes who will be on show in Porto Novo include South Africa’s duo Caster Semenya and Paralympic star – the Blade runner – Oscar Pistorius.
Semenya, a Berlin 2009 world champion and Daegu 2011 silver medalist in the 800m, has already qualified for the Games but still needs to compete in the Championships to satisfy the criteria set by the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC).
That said, Rwanda’s best hope for a medal lay in the Paralympics Games where the country will be represented in athletics (Hermas Muvunyi), power lifting (Théogène Hakizimana) and sitting volleyball.
Till date, Jean Pierre Mvuyekure (Marathon), Adrien Niyonshuti (cycling) and two wildcards Alphonsine Agahozo (swimming) and Yannick Uwase Sekamana (judo) have qualified for the Games.
Early this year, Mvuyekure ran inside the marathon qualifying ‘B’ standard time for the Games after clocking 2: 17: 32 in the Rome Marathon (28 seconds clear of the International Amateur Athletics Federation minimum 02:18:00).