Report & Pictures by IJF: On the occasion of the Senior African Judo Championships which were held in Agadir, Morocco, a few days ago, Rwanda participated in a major international Judo championship for the very first in its history.

Fred Yannick Uwase is only 17 years old. He fights in the -73kg category. The young man is only a second year junior but he has already written down an amazing page of his country’s sports history, by being the first judoka from Rwanda to attend a major international Judo event: the Senior African Judo Championships. A sports addict since childhood, Fred Yannick now lives in France with his family. Nevertheless, he remains patriotic and proud of his Rwandan origins: “Representing my country and wearing the Rwandan flag on my judogi is a great source of pride. I know that this is something great, even if we are only in the infancy of judo in my home country”.

Studying economy in his Junior Year in a French high-school, Fred Yannick practices judo in the Ste-Genevieve Sports club. And it is his club instructor who traveled with him to coach him in Agadir. “I regularly train at my club and sometimes I go to practice at the high level center in Bretigny. I like judo and I would like to warmly thank my coach for everything he has done for me”.

However, a few months ago, nobody would have bet on Rwanda to be present at the African championship, simply because there was no judo federation in the country. Back in 2009, in the traces of the Turikuwme project (supported by the IJF and the IJF Judo for Peace Commission), which allowed Judo to take off in Burundi, a young sports fan, who was already involved in combat sports and who had heard of a training Judo session in Bujumbura (Burundi’s capital), integrated the development of the local structure seminar funded by the Olympic Solidarity and lead by the IJF experts. The adventure of Christian BISHYIKA, now president of the Rwandan Judo Federation, begun and consequently the adventure of Fred Yannick Uwase, the first representative of his country at the international level.

Beyond our dream

Within a few months, supported by the Burundian Judo Federation, the Turikumwe project and the IJF, three clubs were established in Kigali, three clubs which were synonymous of a sesame for the launch of a federation: the fiftieth in Africa.

“Thanks to all the support that we have received both on the national and international level, particularly through the IJF, but also through the National Olympic Committee of Rwanda and the Ministry of Sports, we have gone beyond our dream to see the rebirth of Judo in our country”, proudly said Christian, the president. A young man with such a function is not common, but his enthusiasm has already helped him and his team to climb the ‘thousand hills’ of his country (referring to the nickname of Rwanda). If judo was already present in this region of Africa in the 80s, it completely disappeared after the Rwandan Genocide. “Beyond the pleasure of practicing and of introducing judo to our youth, being here in Agadir is really symbolic” continues President BISHYIKA.

“Last year, I returned to Rwanda and I learned that there was judo in Kigali,” explains Fred Yannick. How to resist? “I went to training, I met Christian. When I told him that I was Rwandan, even if I live in France, and that I was regularly training, I saw a little flame spark in his eyes. “

It did not take long for the President of the very young federation to imagine himself at the head of a Rwandan delegation to participate in the largest continental judo competition, in Agadir.

A little bit disappointed but happy

“I am a little bit disappointed with my combat, but I am happy. It was complicated for me because I am still very young. I really felt good but I made a small mistake. But that’s what competition is all about. I will come back and compete for a medal at the Junior African Judo Championships, which will take place in Botswana, from October 1 to 7, 2012”. In the meantime, Fred Yannick has another goal in mind as his president Christian: the Olympics! “It would be a dream for me and my country to take part in this great universal gathering, but I have time and the future ahead of me.”

Meanwhile, the young champion is already thinking about how to help his federation. He wants to welcome the president in France, bringing his young experience and giving everything he can.

Being a new Rwandan sports ambassador, Fred Yannick can count on the support of his federation. As a conclusion, Christian BISHYIKA recalls: “Many people have trusted us and especially the International Judo Federation in the person of its president, Marius Vizer. We have now the obligation not to disappoint anybody and to show that our commitment will enable us to continue to climb the thousand hills of my country”.

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