In March of this year, I had the opportunity to get to know the Rwandan artistic cyclists in Kigali. Jonathan, the trainer, rounded up a few children for special training because I had to leave early due to the corona pandemic.We met in the morning as agreed in front of the training hall.
Unfortunately, on that day, it was announced that public events were banned in all Rwanda. Unfortunately, the hall in which the artistic cyclists usually train was therefore also closed. Nevertheless, Jonathan told me a lot about the children, who have already mastered which exercise and how they developed further in the sport and in their private life through training.The children, who were really looking forward to the training, decided without hesitation to ride the bicycles, which fortunately were stored at the trainer’s home, on the narrow sidewalk on the side of the road. Even if it was less than 2m wide and made of trampled sand and earth, they showed me a few tricks.
After a brief consideration, we went to a nearby stretch of road that was not used by cars. There was a stone floor that was sloping, but apart from a bump was level. The larger area enabled many more exercises, such as also a saddle handlebar position. When the kids got to the sloping end, they just jumped off the bike and started up again. I was thrilled by the joy that the children radiated. It was fought to get on the bike to show some elements. Since only two bicycles are currently in working order, each of the ten or so children was able to spend little time on the bike. After only a short time, we were sent away out of the place again because we had not registered the training. Jonathan then told me that these children were lacking in many things. Several of the athletes I’ve met live on the streets, others have bad relationships with their families. Few children went to school before they got into artistic cycling. Through the training they have learned to stick to rules and that they can achieve something through diligent practice. Only those who go to school are allowed to train regularly. Jonathan said there were many more interested children, but with 30 children he was at the limit. He cannot take more children because he only has two functional bikes. The other two have a flat tire and he cannot get new hoses in Rwanda’s capital Kigali. How crazy, I think to myself, that our old, worn but otherwise intact tires are thrown away and here they are missing. During my time in Rwanda, I often felt the massive differences with Germany; the essentials were missing. The children train barefoot because they have no shoes. The pants have holes. And yet these children exude a satisfaction that I have seldom encountered in Germany.
I am happy to have made the acquaintance of the Rwandan artistic cyclists. Of course, I am happy that our sport exists in this country; but I am much more moved by the thought that sport plays such a special role here. Sport is a social project that enables children to have positive experiences, encourages them to go to school so that they have a chance to find a job later. Here, sport is more than a passion; the sport has an essential influence on the future of children.