A gold medal in any sport is a great achievement, but for
and Bruce Dukundane it has proved something more than that
a piece of history and enough to earn them a meeting with
their president.
That was the pair’s reward after earning their country’s first international
sporting gold medal when winning the first ever CAVB Beach Volleyball
Junior Cup. Such was the response back home that Burundi’s president,
Pierre Nkurunziza, received the players at the airport on their return.
He also met them along with the Burundi Volleyball Federation (FVB)
president, Louis Rwakiranya, at the presidential palace to honour them
for their achievement.
When the FVB sent Mugabowingabo and Dukundane to Togo last July,
no one was expecting the 19-year-olds to return with a medal. As
it was they managed gold, having prevailed at the expense of more
experienced rivals, including Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo and South
Africa, their final victims.
Nobody thought that we could be African champions,” said
Mugabowingabo, yet he and Dukundane were not put off – not even
after an opening defeat by the South Africans. “At that time we felt
that we had nothing to lose and should start our story from there.”
Dukundane added: “It was a very important lesson because we didn’t
have teamwork in that match.” They duly worked together and,
Beach pair make sporting history for Burundi
Burundi’s president, Pierre Nkurunziza, receives Briand Mugabowingabo and
Bruce Dukundane at the Presidential Palace after earning their country’s first
international sporting gold medal
Mugabowingabo is quizzed by the media after his unexpected success with
Dukundane in Togo
Dukundane (left) and Mugabowingabo take a timeout in Togo
unburdened by expectations, made it to the final. “When we met
South Africa again in the final we were happy to say that most of
the media considered us as underdogs,” he continued.
This timewe felt that wewere able to do it and that’s what happened,”
he said of their 2-0 (21-16, 21-11) triumph. “In the second set we felt
that we could beat any team in the world with our great teamwork.”
It has been a dream rise for the pair, who started out playing volleyball
at school before the CAVB Continental Cup in 2011 provided their
big break. Though not yet 18, they were selected to represent the
senior team and finished the zonal phase in third place despite
competing against older players from countries like Kenya, Egypt,
Uganda and Burundi.
Now in the final year of the secondary school, a world of exciting
opportunities is opening up to them. “We couldn’t imagine that one day
we could meet the president of our country,” said Mugabowingabo.
I said to Bruce after the meeting, are we dreaming?” Happily, for
volleyball in Burundi, they were not.
In the second set we felt that we
could beat any team in the world
with our great teamwork’