Burundian runner Francine Niyonsaba won her qualifying group in the women’s 800 metres
[Ruby Irene Pratka]
mercredi 8 août 2012 à 22 : 02 : 16
As the Olympic excitement reaches a climax in London, six of our Olympic athletes can look back on a job well done. One, however, is still too busy looking forward.
Runner Francine Niyonsaba won her qualifying group in the women’s 800 metres, on Wednesday afternoon putting her in a good position for Thursday’s semifinal. Niyonsaba, who won the African Athletics Championships at this distance in July, has a small but realistic chance of becoming Burundi’s first female Olympic medalist if she races her best in the semifinal and in Saturday’s final.
Marathon runner Diane Nukuri finished 31st out of 118 runners in the women’s marathon, setting a new national record in the process. She ran the 26 miles in 2 hours, 30 minutes and 13 seconds, seven minutes behind winner Tiki Gelana of Ethiopia (2:23:07). It was only the fourth time Nukuri, 31, had run the distance. She also represented Burundi in the 5000 metres at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, finishing 14th overall.
Swimmer Elsie Uwamahoro missed out on qualifying for the semifinals of the women’s 50-metre freestyle swim. Uwamahoro, a 23-year-old business management student at Université Lumière, finished fourth of eight swimmers in her qualifying group, with a time of 33.14 seconds. Eventual winner Ranomi Kromiwidjojo of the Netherlands finished in 24.05 seconds, setting a new Olympic record.
Burundi also sent one judo fighter to London—Odette Ntahonvukiye, 18, from Cibitoke. Ntahonvukiye lost in the first elimination round to Audrey Koumba of Gabon.
The only Burundian to win an Olympic medal so far is runner Vénuste Niyongabo, who won gold in the men’s 5000 metres in 1996 in Atlanta—the first Olympics to which Burundi sent a team. Oliver Irabaruta, representing Burundi in the men’s 5000 metres this year, could not repeat Niyongabo’s success. He finished 14th of 21 runners in his qualifying group with a time of 13 minutes, 46 seconds ; only the top five runners qualified for Saturday’s final.
Beni-Bertrand Binobagira, the other Burundian swimmer at these games, had the slowest time in the men’s 100-metre freestyle (1:04:57). Gold medalist Nathan Adrian of the US swam the distance in just over 48 seconds. However, for Binobagira, the Games were still a success : “I wasn’t capable of doing any better, but regardless, I was able to realize my best time,” he wrote on Facebook.
“Thank you Mr. Binobagira for representing Burundi at the assembly of all sporting nations at the London Olympics, despite the small resources allotted to Burundian sport and swimming in particular,” wrote a commenter on Iwacu’s French-language website. “It brings pride to Burundians, wherever they are, to see the tricoloured flag of Burundi waving in the world’s business capital. Some people have learned that Burundi exists, and others have said ‘Finally, Burundi is over its fratricidal quarrels. Courage to all our athletes ; there are medals to be won at the next Games.“
Or perhaps a bit sooner.