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Triumph over adversity: Munyaneza aims for the very top

Munyaneza Dieudonné, a member of the Wheelchair Basketball Club, has shown that he has a deep passion for wheelchair basketball, and he has faced numerous challenges with determination and resilience.

Life often presents challenges that can make a person feel helpless, and many times those who overcome these hurdles start by believing in themselves when no one else does.

Sports is one way to empower individuals with disabilities to excel, and Munyaneza Dieudonné found his calling in wheelchair basketball, thanks to organizations like the Rwandan Women’s Wheelchair Basketball Team and the Kicukiro Wheelchair Basketball Club.

In 2018, Munyaneza Dieudonné began playing wheelchair basketball as a student at HVP-Gatagara School for People with Disabilities. Despite being unfamiliar with the sport, he was drawn to it and knew he had to try. He saw it as an opportunity to challenge himself and continue his education.

He said, “I started playing in school for people with disabilities, but because it was not easy to combine school and sports, I made a decision to focus on my education. However, I couldn’t stop thinking about basketball, which I love so much and is very important to me.”

In 2020, he returned to the sport after finding time to train at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He watched instructional videos on YouTube and studied the game’s rules. He wanted to ensure that players had the necessary skills to excel and compete effectively.

He added, “During the COVID-19 pandemic, I decided to conduct research on wheelchair basketball and how to play it better. I wanted players to be able to dribble and do other techniques well.”

“It became clear to me that I wanted to get back into the game. Like any other job, I was motivated to return to basketball and be successful in it.”

Munyaneza Dieudonné continued his journey in wheelchair basketball, and in 2021, he participated in a tournament that brought together wheelchair basketball players from across Africa, aiming to showcase their skills and promote the sport.

He said, “In 2021, it was my first year in Wheelchair Basketball. During that time, anyone in the country could participate in the sport. I did not expect that I would be involved, but I was determined to be part of it because I wanted to represent my country and make it proud.”

“Just like anyone who starts something, I had to put in extra effort and time because there were times when I had to practice during the day and at night. They taught us the basics at Petit Stade, and although no one was forced to join, I felt a strong urge to start a new chapter in the sport.”

The Triumph of Life

Wheelchair basketball not only empowers players but also serves as a source of inspiration for them. Munyaneza Dieudonné believes that the sport allows players to believe in themselves and their abilities.

He said, “This sport means a lot to me. When you see yourself in a wheelchair and you can play sports, you feel that you are capable, that you can achieve anything, and that you can do what others can.”

“I often think that if LeBron James can score three-pointers, I can do it too. It motivates me a lot. When I see my friends saying that I inspire them, that encourages me. Because of playing, I have had the opportunity to meet many people, including the President of the Republic, Paul Kagame. Many people want to see me succeed.”

Wheelchair Basketball Needs More Support

Munyaneza Dieudonné recognizes that wheelchair basketball in Rwanda has room for improvement and needs more support to reach higher levels. He believes that with increased support, players can reach their full potential.

He said, “This year, I had the opportunity to participate in a basketball training program in the United States, and that’s when I realized what I could achieve. The challenge we face is that we don’t have sponsors who invest in our sport to help players develop their skills. Also, they have recently cut the budget for the Rwanda Paralympic Committee. I hope they will increase funding and that our national team will participate in more tournaments, including those held abroad.”

Furthermore, Munyaneza Dieudonné emphasizes the importance of raising awareness about wheelchair basketball and involving the Basketball Federation (FERWABA) and the National Paralympic Committee (NPC Rwanda).

He said, “One thing we shouldn’t overlook is the importance of educating people about the sport. Wheelchair basketball requires people to understand it and come to watch it. Those who have the ability to support our athletes should show up and cheer them on.”

“Meshack Rwampungu has done a great job bringing the players together, and both NPC and FERWABA need to work together to ensure that wheelchair basketball thrives in Rwanda. They have made tremendous efforts to organize tournaments, and the facilities, like the BK Arena, have come a long way.”

Empowering Lives Through Sport

Munyaneza Dieudonné’s story serves as an inspiring example of overcoming adversity and excelling in sports. He believes that with the right support and opportunities, both teams and players can thrive and achieve great success in wheelchair basketball.

His journey began with a passion for the sport, and he hopes to continue making a positive impact not only in Rwanda but also in the world of wheelchair basketball.

Straight out of Twitter