Interview: Obed… Cyclist, Masseuse and Yogi

Obed is a rider with Team Rwanda whose career has taken an interesting path to the US where he’s been trained in massage and yoga instruction. He’s got an interesting story that I thought I’d share.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Obed. I am from Kigali, born in Kigali.  I am 34.  I live in Kigali.  I am single and have a 13 year old son.

How did you first get involved in cycling?

In 2004 I entered the Tour of Rwanda.  I think I was 5th place.  After that race I wanted to keep cycling.

What was your path to Team Rwanda?

I was 25 when I started cycling seriously at the Tour of Rwanda.  When I was 17 I was riding a single speed bike and using it as a taxi to make money.  My uncle helped me to get a bike to start racing.  In 2006 I did the Wooden Bike Classic and met Jock Boyer.  I was third place at that race.  At the race Jock Boyer decided to start working with some of the talent in Rwanda and came back in February 2007 to start testing riders.  I went to the testing in 2007 and did well, however, I was not one of the original 5 members.  They call me the 6th rider.  I have been with the team since the beginning.  Even though I wasn’t put on the first team I still trained with the team and went to training camps.  By 2009, I was a member of the team and raced in the first UCI sanctioned Tour of Rwanda.

How do you think Team Rwanda can have a positive impact on the country?

The riders of Team Rwanda first help their families.  For the country when we travel and when we win races the rest of the world sees it as a win for Rwanda.  It shows that Rwanda is no longer at war or fighting, that we are all Rwandans.  The members of Team Rwanda are also role models for young children.  We show that if you work hard and train well you can be successful in a sport.

How important is the role of sports in Rwanda?

Sport is very important in Rwanda because sport is changing life for country.  Sport brings us all together.  Our motto on Team Rwanda is “Team is Team”.  We are more than just cyclists we are brothers.

Have you seen cycling become more popular as a sport since Team Rwanda started?

Yes most definitely.  Today you see many riders on the road training.  We have more races and the Tour of Rwanda is now an international race along with Kwita Izina in June.  These races bring people from all over Africa and even Europe, the US and Canada.  We also have a very good club system in Rwanda which continues to grow.

Would you say physical activity is something Rwandans do enough of?

In Kigali there are not enough people doing sport.  People are getting bigger and are not as fit.  In the country every one works hard and doesn’t have time for sport, but in a big city like Kigali, people are using cars too much and need to walk or ride bicycles more to get fit.

You recently studied massage and yoga in the US… what was your impression of that country?

The US is very nice country.  Everything is different than Rwanda.  In the US many people have jobs, everyone works.  Everyone has a plan for each week and they have goals.  Americans think about the future.

Where in the US were you and what was your experience like?

I learned massage and yoga in New York, Chichester with Megan Leigh.  She taught yoga at Ubushobozi in Musanze.
I also went to Colorado, the Hamptons, NY, Napa Valley, Las Vegas, Aspen, Chicago and Indianapolis and then did training on cycling in New Mexico.  When I wasn’t learning English or training in massage or yoga I was promoting our Team Rwanda documentary, Rising From Ashes.

What did you miss most about Rwanda when you were gone?

I missed my grandmother the most.  She is very old and I take care of her.

What is it about yoga and massage that attracted you?

I like massage because I was a cyclist and I understand how important it is for cyclists.  When you are doing massage you are making the muscles feel good so the cyclists ride better.  Yoga is good for stretching the body for everyone.  It is very good for cyclists because they tend to be very tight.  This improves their performance.

Massage and yoga are good for every day people and not just athletes because it helps relieve stress and when you sit in a car or in an office all day you are tired and your back and shoulders hold all the stress.

You offer massage and yoga to clients in Kigali… tell us about your services.

I can do massage privately in homes.  I am also working on finding a place in Kigali, a small studio.  I can do group or private yoga classes in your home or offices.  My phone number is 0788 588 404 and my email is teamrwandaobed@gmail.com or on Facebook at Obed Ruvogera.  I charge $50/hour for a massage and yoga classes would be $10/ person.

What is the general perception of yoga from Rwandans?

The general Rwandan population does not know about yoga, but if they are exposed to yoga it would help them with their flexibility and relieve stress.  It would be very good for them.

What are your plans for the future?

I want to continue to build my business of yoga and massage in Kigali.  I also still want to work with the Team and with perhaps other sports teams in Kigali.  Some day I want to go back to the US to study more and get licensed in the US.

Thank you for asking me these questions.

About Kirsty

A Canadian who left in 2001 to wander around the world in search of sun, beautiful views and goat brochettes. Found Kigali in July 2010 and it seems like the perfect fit. I expect to be here until I get kicked out for defiantly walking on the grass while wearing flip flops.