‘Karate kid’ Shyaka Ndutiye on coming of age, Olympic dream | The New Times

22-year-old Maic Roger Shyaka Ndutiye has pushed the limits in the karate world in Rwanda, happily raising Rwanda’s flag in regional and continental competitions.

Despite competing in a sport that is rarely given coverage or full attention, Ndutiye’s passion has pushed him to do more and more to become better at karate and his efforts have been paying off with a number of wins.

“I started learning karate from a very early age. I think I was in P3. I loved karate from the movies I used to watch as a child. I used to think people who do karate are really cool and disciplined,” recalls Ndutiye.

Swayed by the idea of ​​self-defence, he looked around the new neighborhood his family had moved to in Kagugu and found a nearby place where he could learn the sport and luckily, his parents were supportive.

“I told my parents to take me to the place and they accepted. My mission was and still remains to become a world champion,” he says.

Ndutiye who in May won the golden medal in the Senior Category during the Eastern Region Karate Championship that was held in Nairobi, is a true winner and thrives to win more and see Rwanda’s national flag fly high. The desire to win came in 2018 at the African championships held in Kigali where he first represented the country in the national team.

“When I was called to the national team for the first time I thought I was doing karate for fun or self-defence, not for the country. I got on the floor on the second day of the competition.

“I was tense. On the first day my teammate was outperformed and eliminated. I realized that people in the stands were not happy. Unfortunately, I also got eliminated. I could not sleep when I got home, knowing that I had let down my country,” he says.

He felt that he should have won a medal. The coaches were not happy either. He challenged himself to do better. He prayed about it.

When the next opportunity to represent the country came, Ndutiye went to Egypt with zeal and won his first four games. In the final game, he faced an Egyptian who had the home advantage.

“It was my most difficult fight. I did all I could and came up on top. Everyone was happy for me. I felt victory for the first time and made my teammates and country proud. I was truly happy and I thanked God for answering my prayers,” he recalls.

The next outing came in 2019, when Ndutiye again represented the country in the continental games held in Botswana, but he lost by a small margin, having switched categories to the senior level.

No giving up

Ndutiye was not demoralised by the loss that came with switching to the senior level. He understood that the senior level comes with more responsibility and strategy.

“I knew I would win but my opponent proved to be more senior to me. He won by three points to two. I was disheartened but I never gave up. I apologised to my coach and promised to do better,” he says.

The same year in August, he participated in a tournament organized by Police and he managed to get back to his winning ways. As fate would have it, in 2020, Covid-19 struck and all sports activities came to a halt.

“I never gave up regardless of these low moments. I kept pushing myself, training at home. I even told myself that being fit is one way to beat the virus. The games only resumed in 2022,” he says.

“The first tournament I participated in was the Kwibuka Memorial tournament in May 2022, at the club level, and my club emerged the tournament winner, scooping gold medals,” Ndutiye says.

Right from the Kwibuka tourney, he headed for the regional competition in Nairobi where he won a gold medal.

“I got a chance to participate in the senior category of 60kgs and below in the Zone 5 tournament and I was able to emerge first. The national anthem was played as the Rwandan national flag was being hoisted,” he adds.

The disciplined athlete believes that at 22, he still has a shot at global tournaments and with the support of his coaches, he thinks he can up his skills and compete at the Olympic Games, which is his ultimate dream.

Parents’ support

Ndutiye believes parents need to listen to and support their children’s dreams. He attributes his success to the support he got from his parents. They understood karate is not only a sport for the disciplined, it also comes with responsibility.

“They understood me and also knew the importance of karate as a sport and they gave me their support,” he says, adding that he was self-motivated to learn karate, though he heard his father was an ardent karate sportsman.

He believes that the first thing they look at is the passion for the sport, but it doesn’t pay much like other sports, rather, it is one’s drive that keeps them going.

Ndutiye says that young people can develop their talents and at the same time pursue their education, because, for example, you cannot fully survive on talent. He, however, says there are far more benefits that come with developing one’s talent.

“Karate for example keeps you focused and disciplined. When you focus on your talent, it protects you from engaging in negative acts such as drug abuse and it gives you the right discipline. You don’t have time to waste,” he says.

Ndutiye is pursuing a course in ICT, particularly as a software developer and looks to become one of the best, but he still wants to keep pushing karate, juggling it with other skills.

Coach’s view

Noël Nkuranyabahizi, the karate national team coach who saw Ndutiye grow in the sport, says he is a disciplined young man who proved his ability right from inter-school competitions.

“He showed his worth right from school. We identified him along with others for long term athlete development programs. We followed them up as they joined the junior category and later the senior level.

“At the national level, I can say Ndutiye has the record of being the first Rwandan to win a medal, a gold medal, at the continental level,” Nkuranyabahizi says, adding that even switching categories never stopped him.

Nkuranyabahizi says that a lot has gone into preparing them to compete at regional and continental levels, but of course challenges remain in terms of exposure and competing outside national ranks.

Regardless of the challenges, when Ndutiye and teammates head out, they fight tooth and nail against competitors who have more exposure and resources.

“This group of kids led by Ndutiye has really outdone themselves, winning medals in unexpected conditions. Our plan is to push them to participate in highly ranked competitions. Nkuranyabahizi is hopeful that in November this year, Ndutiye and his teammates will perform even better when they participate in the African Championship scheduled for Durban, South Africa.

He also hopes that the competition will be a platform for him and his teammates to qualify for the global tournament to be held in 2023, in a yet-to-be revealed country.

Nkuranyabahizi says that if all goes well, the ultimate goal will be to see Ndutiye and his colleagues participate in the 2028 Olympic Games.

lmbabazi@newtimesrwanda.com

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