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Interview with Samson Ndayishimiye: “The Passion for Cycling in Rwanda is Natural and Historical”

While Rwanda has recently invested in basketball, cycling remains the country's most popular sport. Ahead of the Tour du Rwanda and the World Cycling Championship in 2025, hosted in Africa for the first time, the President of the Rwandan Cycling Federation discusses the significance for the country.

Interview by DBM

Samson Ndayishimiye, before becoming the head of the Rwandan Cycling Federation, you were first and foremost a cyclist. A national champion! Tell us about your career…

My name is Samson Ndayishimiye. I am Rwandan, born and raised in Rwanda. I’m 43 years old and an ex-Olympian for Rwanda, representing the country in the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

I was elected to the federation on November 5, 2023, but I have been involved in cycling for two years with our Tour of Rwanda. Initially, I was involved in driving rally cars. I started working with the federation as a mechanic driver for the Tour of Rwanda.

The cycling federation in Rwanda faced difficulties, but it belongs where it should be. Rwanda, with its thousand hills, offers diverse terrains for cycling. We have a center in Musanze, with high mountains, and in Bugesera, which is almost flat. Having all these terrains accessible makes it easy for cyclists to train and attracts people to Rwanda for training.

Indeed, despite basketball gaining attention, cycling remains the most popular sport in Rwanda. How do you explain this?

Passion for cycling is natural here. For a long time, in Rwanda, people have used bikes for everyday work; it’s a mode of transport. Many exercise without realizing it. While it may not be the most important sport, we also have football, basketball, and the BAL in Rwanda. Cycling is the only sport that comes directly to people’s doorsteps, making it the most accessible. The Federation promotes it through the Youth Development Plan, organizing races in different parts of the country every month and the Rwanda National Cup.

Rwanda has been chosen to host the UCI World Cycling Championship in 2025, the first time in Africa. What are the stakes for the country, both in sporting and economic terms?

Rwanda is honored and excited to host the UCI World Championships 2025. It’s a massive opportunity. Hosting it next year, during the 104th anniversary of the UCI championships, is a blessing. We are preparing for the event, focusing on health through cycling and education. The championship also puts Rwanda in the spotlight, attracting opportunities. Rwanda is a visa-free country for all African countries, making it easy for businesses. We hope the event will attract investment, and personally, I dream of a major cycling company setting up a factory in Rwanda.

It’s a significant legacy, and tourism will benefit. The event will bring economic impact for eight days and beyond, welcoming tourists and showcasing Rwanda’s potential.

Regarding challenges for Rwanda and the continent in increasing the impact of sports on economies and development, what do you see?

Focusing on youth development through education is crucial. Educated individuals pursuing their passions in various sports will drive greater impact. We need to transition from old ways of thinking and see opportunities as a community. Development and education will help us grow and shine brighter.

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