Rwandan mountain biker's Olympic dream

As part of a series looking at competitors who have overcome overwhelming odds to take part in the upcoming Olympics, Al Jazeera spends time with Adrien Niyonshuti, a Rwandan mountain biker.

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    Millions of people all over the world remember learning to ride a bike. The bumps, scars and tears were a part of childhood.

    But in Africa, most children don't have access to bikes so it's understandable there aren't many top cyclists here. Adrien Niyonshuti is blazing a trail that could provide the inspiration to change that. 

    Of course inspiration and access don't go hand in hand. Niyonshuti was lucky his uncle gave him a bike and so began his love affair with the sport.

    By 21 he was competing internationally, starting with the 2007 Absa Cape Epic.

    Under the wing of his South African professional team, the Rwandan has gone from strength to strength, becoming his country's first Olympic mountain biker.

    Not bad for a guy who first heard of the Olympics when he watched a bit of the Beijing Games on television and thought (I'm not kidding): "One day I'd like to be there." 

    To say he takes it all in his stride is an understatement, we're talking about a man who lived through Rwanda's 1994 genocide when six of his brothers, and about 800,000 other people, were slaughtered in a bloodbath.

    It's only made him more determined to get the most out of his natural talent. Doug Ryder, the principal of the MTN-Qhubeka Team, told me that while other riders in the team (who'll remain nameless) complain of extra training sessions, and feel that if they have a bad day or are feeling lazy that it doesn't matter, Niyonshuti brings himself completely to his cycling every time. 

    We went with Niyonshuti to an event where villagers trade saplings they've grown for new bikes.

    He said it was humbling for him to see how hard people will work for the chance to own something that will make life so much easier. He said when he's tired during a competition he compares his hardship to theirs and it disappears. 

    In many ways, he's the perfect athlete, blessed with natural talent and a burning desire to grasp every chance that comes within reach, but what truly sets Niyonshuti apart is his personality, his quiet, humble way leaves a lasting impression on everyone he meets.


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