'Africa can't compete with rich nations'

2000-09-17 11:05

Sydney - Pamela Girimbabazi, competing for war-torn Rwanda in their first Olympics, said on Sunday it is impossible for teams from poorer nations to compete at the same level as other international athletes.

But Girimbabazi, made an early exit from the Games when she was disqualified for an illegal turn in the women's 100m breaststroke opening heats, would make Baron Pierre de Coubertin - founder of the modern Olympics - proud.

She embodies the de Coubertin motto that taking part is more important than winning.

After training part-time in hotel pools because there are no other facilities available to her in Rwanda, Girimbabazi's Olympics came to an abrupt end when she was disqualified for touching the pool wall only with one hand.

But Girimbabazi was philosophical about the outcome, saying it was impossible to compete at the same level as athletes from wealthier nations.

"It's difficult to compete with swimmers who train a couple of hours a day. But it was a great experience. There was a good atmosphere," said Girimbabazi, whose qualifying time for the Games of 1min 30.00sec was over 20 seconds behind the top level competitors.

But Girimbabazi said that for her the important thing was competing in the Olympics. "It has a lot of importance for me," she said. "It's the first time here and I'm not very strong, but this has given me a lot of confidence."

Girimbabazi's heat, which was the slowest, was won by Mariam Keita of Mali, who clocked 1:37.80, to finish overall 40th - 30.32sec behind the fastest qualifying time of 1:07.48 set by Megan Quann of the United States.

Niger's Balkissa Ouhoumoudou finished just behind Keita in 41st position, while the fourth member of their heat, Doli Akhtar of Bangladesh, was disqualified for a false start.

Meanwhile, South Africa's Penny Heyns, the world's premier breaststroker, showed that she was back in form when she easily booked her spot in Sunday night's semi-finals. - Sapa