Burundi’s sole representative in the tennis competitions at the Youth Olympic Games Buenos Aires 2018, Sada Nahimana has overcome the lack of resources devoted to her sport in her home country to make it onto the global stage.
Nahimana is no stranger to adversity when it comes to playing the sport she loves. Burundi is not exactly a hotbed of tennis, with clubs and fellow players thin on the ground, making her presence at Buenos Aires 2018 and her world junior ranking of 33 remarkable achievements in themselves.
“Tennis is not popular in my country and not many people play it,” explained the 17-year-old. “In fact, we’ve only got one big tennis club, L’Entente Sportive, in Bujumbura (the country’s capital city). There are others in other cities and courts at some hotels, but that’s the only major one.”
An admirer of Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal, she was introduced to the game by her father. “I started to play tennis because he’s a coach, and he coaches me, though I’ve come with a different coach to Buenos Aires. I don’t know what would have happened if my father hadn’t been a tennis coach. He’s the one who led me to the court.”
Though Nahimana was knocked out in the second round of the women’s singles on Wednesday 10 October, beaten in straight sets by France’s Clara Burel, she is still going strong in the mixed doubles, where she and partner Philip Henning of South Africa have won through to the second round.
The young Burundian counts sleeping as one of her favourite hobbies but has been making the most of her first trip to Argentina: “It’s really nice to be here. I’ve never been before. There are lots of athletes from different countries in the Olympic Village and we can make lots of friends. I didn’t know much about the country before. In fact, I just knew about my favourite football player: Lionel Messi.”
Burundi have only five athletes competing at Buenos Aires 2018, with three of Nahimana’s team-mates competing in track and field and the other in judo. Nahimana hopes more of her compatriots can grace the Olympics in the future and had this message for them: “Try out as many sports as you can and see which ones you’re good at. Practice a lot and try get enjoyment out of it, even if it can be hard sometimes.”