Despite only serving as the assistant coach in the national team until last month, Sempoma is the man who has overseen multiple milestones that Rwandan cyclists have registered on the international scene over the years
The 49-year-old was at the helm of Team Rwanda when its riders won various African races such as the 2018 La Tropicale Amissa Bongo, the 2018 Tour du Cameroon 2018, last year’s Tour du Senegal, and the recently concluded Grand Prix Chantal Biya 2020 in Cameroon.
He was also in charge when (now retired) Janvier Hadi defied the odds to strike gold in men’s road race at the 2015 All-Africa Games in Congo-Brazzaville.
This week, Sempoma sat down with Weekend Sport’s Damas Sikubwabo where he shared insights about his strides with Team Rwanda, and plans for the upcoming international competitions.
Under your tutelage, Team Rwanda riders have over the years won more races outside the country than with any other coach, why is that?
I think it is about leadership and how I instill ownership in them prior to races. Obviously, the support of Rwandans and different stakeholders also inspire us. But, like everyone else, I am also always amazed by the coincidence of how the riders wins when I travel with them.
What have you done to build such a winning mentality in the team to register such achievements?
Nothing exceptional that I would think of, frankly. The achievements registered are just down to good cooperation between coaches, riders and administrators of the sport.
Also, teamwork matters a lot in cycling. I always urge the riders for teamwork; in training and in competitive races.
What are you doing to make sure that this performance is sustainable in the future?
In partnership with the Rwanda cycling federation, there are provisions of on scouting and creating a big pool of talents – boys and girls – so the milestones made so far can be sustained for generations to come.
Do you plan to train or share knowledge with other local coaches who may step in once you retire?
The training of coaches is principally the job of the federation, but it has begun. And it is evident that, in the near future, qualified coaches will be there in a good number.
No local rider has won Tour du Rwanda since it was upgraded UCI 2.1 category last year, can the momentum from the recent Grand Prix Chantal Biya race inspire Team Rwanda to victory at the 2021 edition?
I think the most important thing is adequate preparations and give the riders all possible facilitations they require to succeed. Otherwise winning Tour du Rwanda is possible, and this year a Rwandan finished in second place.
Hopefully we will make amends and win the race again.
Do you think that the support you get from the sports ministry and the cycling federation is enough? Or you need more to reach greater heights?
Cycling is an expensive and demanding sport. If more means were available, I believe we would do better but at the moment we try to get the most out of the limited resources we have and I would want to think we are not doing very badly.