Shōta IIZUKA, Japanese Olympic Silver Medalist Inspires Young Rwandan Athletes

On 2 November 2023 at 04:36

Young athletes in Rwanda have had the privilege of learning from Shōta Iizuka, a Japanese sprinter renowned for his expertise in the 200 meters and his impressive Silver medal win in the 400 meters relay during the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games in Brazil.

On Wednesday, October 25, 2023, during the second day of his visit to Rwanda, Shōta Iizuka met with aspiring athletes, particularly those from Rwamagana Athletics Club mainly from GS St. Aloys School, including about 15 members who are actively involved in the Isonga program.

Before meeting with athletes, Iizuka actively engaged in morning sports activities with 90 senior third-year students as part of the "Sports for All" program. These students had been participating in sports training sessions, overseen by the Japanese coach, Hayashi Risa, who was dispatched to the school through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

Iizuka also engaged in discussions aimed at helping them enhance their athletic skills and general sportsmanship.

Emphasizing the importance of nurturing big dreams, Shōta Iizuka remarked, "To become a giant in your field, you must cultivate ambitious aspirations. It’s essential for these young athletes to find a sport they love because it has a positive impact on their lives. They should dream big about how they’ll achieve success and seek role models. For instance, just as Messi inspires in football, observing how he approaches the game, trains, and conducts himself on the field can be a daily source of imitation."

The dedicated athlete continued by underscoring the significance of sharing one’s dreams with oneself and others, acknowledging the pivotal role of support in realizing one’s aspirations.

Several of the children who had the opportunity to interact and train with Shōta Iizuka expressed their gratitude for the experience and the invaluable lessons they learned from the accomplished athlete.

Yves Ishimwe, an 18-year-old member of Rwamagana Athletics Club, expressed the immense value of meeting a record winning athlete like Iizuka.

He shared, "I wholeheartedly welcome the opportunity to meet someone with a wealth of experience. In particular, I realized that my previous approach to starting was flawed. His advice encouraged us not to give up on life, as it can be instrumental in nurturing our talents."

Jimmy Iradukunda, also part of Rwamagana Athletics Club, spoke of the valuable lessons he acquired, especially in the context of enhancing his leg speed.

"I gained a wealth of knowledge from him, including techniques to improve my leg speed and other strategies previously unfamiliar to us. This newfound wisdom will undoubtedly assist me in reducing my race times, making me more confident in my chances of victory."

Djibril Masengo, who represented Sina Gérard Athletics Club, highlighted the significance of training with a record winning player like Shōta, saying, "We are thrilled and immensely grateful to train with someone of your caliber. We’ve gleaned valuable insights into your training methods, and now we’re eager to put them into practice to witness our improvement."

Muhire Benjamin, also a member of Sina Gérard Athletics Club, appreciated the technical guidance provided by Shōta Iizuka, stating, "He imparted a wealth of knowledge to us, particularly in terms of techniques. This is something we often lack due to our physical education limitations. His guidance couldn’t have come at a better time, as we have a major race next month. I believe we’ll significantly improve our performance thanks to his expertise."

After all events, Ms. Hayashi, coaching Rwamagana Athletic Club as JICA volunteer, spoke about her learning through this precious opportunity; “I was inspired by Mr. Iizuka’s motto, “Enjoy trial and error without worrying about failures that happened in the past”. Following this thought, as a coach of the club, I would like to update my knowledge every day, try out various practice methods, and enjoy trials and errors with team members and other coaches in my volunteer activities.

Accompanied by Japanese volunteers engaged in projects within Rwanda, Shōta Iizuka generously distributed various materials, including clothing and shoes, to the young athletes, offering crucial support on their journey to nurture their talents.