I know that I can do better: Rwandan swimmer

2011-07-30 16:30

Shanghai, China – The first time Rwandan Patrick Rukondo dived into a 50m pool for a swimming race was yesterday in the Oriental Sports Centre in Shanghai.

He competed in the men’s 50m freestyle event at the 14th swimming world championships that ends tomorrow.

“In Kigali (Rwanda capital) where I live, we have many pools, about 20, but none of them are the Olympic size 50m,” said Rukondo.

“Some are 25m and some shorter. So the first time I swam in a 50m pool was during training here in Shanghai.”

Rukondo is one of four Rwandan swimmers competing at the world championships.

The 21-year-old lifeguard, who played basketball as a child, only started swimming in 2005 and has not looked back since.

“I work as a lifeguard in one of the pools, so swimming is my life and I just love it,” he said.

“Swimming is not the most popular sport in Rwanda, but more and more people are starting to take up swimming. There are several clubs and I belong to Karongi Zenith.”

Joshua Neuloh, national swimming team coach, hopes that having a team in Shanghai will popularise the sport.

He said: “Having a team in Shanghai will make people (Rwandans) hear about swimming and it will help the sport gain a stronger standing in Rwanda.”

Rukondo though, is living his dream because competing at the world championships is the biggest thing that has ever happened to him since taking up the sport.

“I am getting so much experience.”

Like millions of swimmers around the world, Rukondo sees American superstar Michael Phelps as the be-all and end-all of the sport.

“It’s amazing, I saw Michael Phelps for the first time, but I’m very nervous.”

Although his times are still far off the pace set by the likes of Phelps, Rukondo has high hopes and big dreams.

“First I want to compete at next year’s Olympics in London. That would be fantastic. And then I want to win medals. Even at big competitions.”

On Thursday he swam a time of 28.08, 6.06 seconds behind Brazilian Cesar Cielo who led the field into the semifinals in 22.03.

Rukondo’s time saw him finish 93rd. But he did manage to beat 23 other swimmers.

There is obviously much room for improvement, but he was satisfied with his first effort.

“I am happy with my swim, but I know that I can do better.”

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