THE Rwandan athletes, who formed an affinity with Bury St Edmunds after using the town as their training camp, made their London 2012 bows this week with their best hopes yet to come.
While their first two athletes fell at the first hurdles in judo and swimming events, the African country will be hoping for at least one moment of cheer as the Games continue.
Their first female competitor in London will be hoping to deliver for them in the pool this morning as Alphonsie Agahozo begins her outside bid for glory in the women’s 50m freestyle from shortly after 10am.
The recently-turned 16-year-old is among 90 swimmers across 10 heats vying to register one of the 16 best lengths to make the semi-final line-up.
Agahozo, in her first Olympics along with all the team apart from swimmer Jackson Niyomugabo, made a qualifying time of 31.41 seconds, putting her fifth fastest out of eight in her heat three line-up, led by Ethiopia’s Yanet Seyoum Gebremedhin, who clocked 33.17secs.
Britain’s medal hopefuls Amy Smith (24.87secs) and Francessca Halsall (24.13secs) also swim in the event, both in heat nine, with the Netherlands’ Ranomi Kromowidjojo (24.10secs) the fastest in qualifying.
The semi-final will 8.25pm tonight, with the final of the event set for 7.30pm tomorrow.
The men’s 10,000 metres final at the Olympic Stadium tomorrow night (9.15pm) will feature Rwandan’s 27-year-old Robert Kajuga running alongside Britain’s European gold medallist Mo Farah.
The 31-man field also includes the man Farah will be hoping to finish ahead of, Ethiopia’s 10,000m world-record holder Keneisa Bekele, after the 25 laps of the track.
Then on Sunday, Claudette Mukasakindi carries Rwandan hopes through the streets of London in the women’s marathon (11am).
The 29-year-old will face tough competition from a field containing 2008 gold medallist Constantina Dita-Tomescu from Romania, though Great Britain’s Paula Radcliffe, who holds the world record of 2hrs 15mins 25secs had to pull out with a foot injury last weekend.
The Rwandan team’s first competitor, 18-year-old Yannick Fred Sekamana, enjoyed an all too brief 54 seconds in the Olympic limelight on Monday morning.
On the mat at the ExCel Centre in the men’s under-73kg judo event, the youngster survived one stranglehold by 27-year-old Brazilian Bruno Medonca in the opening 30 seconds.
But the second, following an expertly executed roll by his opponent, proved too much for the inexperienced judoka as he tapped twice on Mendonca’s arm to signal an ippon (knockout) to immediately end the last 32 knockout match, having received a bye in the round of 64.
There was also an early exit over in the Olympic Park’s Aquatic Centre for swimmer Jackson Niyomugabo in the men’s 50m freestyle on Thursday morning.
The 24-year-old, who was competing in his second Olympic Games after debuting at Beijing in 2008, failed to register one of the 16 quickest times from eight heats containing a total of 58 swimmers to reach the semi-finals.
Niyomugabo finished fourth in his heat in a time of 27.38secs, which was not enough to secure his passage through to the next round.
Rwandan team captain Adrien Nyonshuti, considered the nation’s best chance of a shot at thier first Olympic medal, in the men’s moutain biking, will not get his Games under way until a week Sunday.