Land of Second Chances: The Impossible Rise of Rwanda’s Cycling Team
Rwandan cyclist Adrian Niyonshuti set out to do the impossible–participate in the Olympics and become the first of his countrymen to earn a medal.
In Land of Second Chances, British journalist and author Tim Lewis chronicled Niyonshuti’s uphill climb in the European and American dominated sport of cycling.
Relying on assistance from two Americans (a former professional cyclist and an engineer), Niyonshuti desperately wanted to overcome his war-torn nation’s cultural obstacles and limited resources. Determined to establish himself (and possibly his country) as a serious Olympic contender, he became so obsessed with the sport that he often referred to his bicycle as his “girlfriend.”
To understand Niyonshuti, Lewis provided the necessary background on the cyclist’s native country. Still recovering from the horrific genocide that claimed millions of lives only two decades earlier, the author explored Rwanda’s history, its economic outlook, and its role abroad.
Unfortunately, Lewis’ back-and-forth structure of Niyonshuti’s journey and his nation’s problems made it difficult to keep track of names, timeline, and character development, ultimately sacrificing the flow of a potentially moving story.
Despite this lack of structural discipline, the author deserves credit for bringing to light the compelling story of a remarkable young man who, against all odds, brought honor to himself and country.