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Meet Rwanda’s Fencing Prodigy: Tufaha

Uwihoreye Tufaha is a young dynamic girl who grew up with a very unusual love for fighting at school, an attitude many girls do not have which eventually led her to becoming a fencing prodigy that no student could defeat.

Tufaha has loved sports since she was young and practiced regularly. In her family of nine children, she was the only one who loved sports. She had what they call the athletic gene.

During her primary school years, she played football and was on the school team. She liked to train at Rafiki Club, where she learned other sports like volleyball and basketball.

Her dream was to become a famous football player because she loved football the most. Tufaha says her dreams changed in 2011 when she and her training partners learned about a new sport where players fight with swords.

She says, “I was playing at Rafiki when people told us about this new sport. It was 2011, and I was in the sixth grade of primary school, thirteen years old. We went there, about 12 kids. Curious about this sword-fighting sport, we went to see what it was. They played this sport next to the Nyamirambo Stadium, now KIGALI PELÉ STADIUM.”

Tufaha says that when she saw fencing, she immediately loved it and was even more excited when she got to try a sword. She immediately asked the coach to teach her sword fighting, and that’s when her journey began.

Of the 12 children who went to see the sport, only four returned the second time, and eventually, only two remained. Tufaha insists that her love for the sport and her determination to learn it kept her going.

She also mentions that the fighting aspect of the sport motivated her to continue because she felt it would enable her to defend herself against other students.

She says, “This was the first time I had seen this sport. I had never heard about it on the radio or seen it on TV. But I had always liked playing fighting games as a child. So, when I saw that this was also a fighting sport, I decided I must play it so the kids at school won’t beat me up anymore.”

Her journey in this sport was successful. In 2020, the sword fighting federation sent her to train more intensively, and she earned an international certificate.

Tufaha spent a year studying at the Academy d’Arme d’Alger in Algeria. In 2021, she returned to Rwanda and established the Dreams Fencing Club. She founded this club to teach the youth and young children the sport.

She says there’s no specific age limit for this sport; one can start at four years old and continue until they feel their body can no longer handle it.

Although she was the only one in her family who loved sports, she managed to inspire her brother, who also started playing the sport.

She says, “I tried to encourage my younger siblings to play, but they refused. However, my brother Ibrahim agreed. I brought him to fencing, and now he plays too. This year, he performed well and won his first medal.”

Tufaha’s dream is to win a world championship medal or to participate in the Olympic Games. She is confident this is possible given her current ranking.

She says, “In 2021, I was ranked 127th in Africa, but now I am 14th among over 900, maybe 1000 players. In the world ranking, I was 688th, but now I am 123rd.”

Tufaha was the first to participate in the world cup twice, in Russia and Egypt, and has competed in the African championship twice.

She highlights the challenges of not having enough equipment and coaches, often going to competitions alone without a coach or companion.

However, she is optimistic that the sport will grow significantly in the coming years and that Rwanda will win international medals in it.

She specifically asks leaders and those responsible to support the sport so it can reach a satisfying level in Rwanda.

Tufaha sees being a girl playing Fencing as a symbol that a girl’s dreams should not be suppressed. She believes that with effort, intelligence, and willpower, one can achieve their goals.

Besides, she has also played Karate, Rugby, and Taekwondo, and won a third-place medal in Taekwondo.

Straight out of Twitter