By Alex Cyr
The face of U Sport cross-country gets one last kick at the can.
Yves Sikubwabo has been places. Since moving to Canada from his native country of Rwanda in 2010, his travels have seen him bounce between training groups. After stints with the Ottawa Lions and the Guelph Gryphons, the mathematics major seems to have found a formula for success at Université Laval with Le Rouge et Or. Since moving to Quebec City, the now fifth year student has become dominant on the varsity scene.
He handily won the individual title at last year’s U Sports Championship and, so far this year, he remains undefeated on the cross-country course. In fact, his spotless record and comfortable stride have earned him the nickname “EZ Yves” in the varsity running community. Also an accomplished runner on the track and on the roads, Sikubwabo will be leading a team of hungry Rouge et Or men in their pursuit of a second consecutive U Sports team title. The national university cross-country championships go off on Nov. 12.
AC: How has your training been going over the last few weeks?
YS: Great. I can’t complain. I got a little bit sick before the provincial championship, but I was able to recover fast. I’m ready to rock and roll!
AC: Yves, you are the reigning U Sport cross-country champion. Is there an extra amount of pressure that comes with defending a title? If so, how will you mentally approach this race?
YS: I’ll be honest. The individual title is not something I’m focusing on at 100 percent. I am looking forward to try and win the title as a team. It’s partly because winning the individual title twice in a row is not easy. Running is not something you can calculate… anything can happen on the given day. That being said, the whole team has the goal of winning. That is what I want to accomplish.
AC: You are a seasoned runner, having already been a part of training groups in Guelph and in Ottawa. You seem to, however, have only hit your stride since moving to Quebec. What is it about Université Laval that has elevated your performance?
YS: It’s always hard to compare between different places. In Quebec, the culture is different. The training, to an extent, is similar everywhere, but what makes a difference is the environment. I get along very well with my teammates. We are all on the same page. We are serious, and put in the work, but we also know when to turn it off and have fun. That part, to enjoy myself, is very important.
AC: Like I said, you’re a seasoned runner. You have raced many times on the track, on the cross-country course, and on the roads. You have great range, being a cross-country runner who sports an 800 metre PB of 1:49. Do you think that top end speed helps you on the cross-country course?
YS: Yes, but you need to have speed endurance. If not you burn out in the first 5k. I work on speed endurance in cross-country season, and once I am fit, then yes, that top end speed helps in the later stages.
AC: Like you’ve mentioned, Le Rouge et Or is on the hunt for a second consecutive team title. All year, you have been fighting with Guelph for top spot in the coaches’ polls. What has to happen for Les Boys to come out on top and repeat as champions?
YS: It’s a race. Nothing is certain, but we have worked to have the best chance to win. Now we just have to do it.
Getting to know Yves
Social media: Twitter – @ysikubwabo / Instagram – yvesikubwabo
PB’s: 800m: 1:49, 1500m: 3:43, 5000m: 14:05
Facial hair (your thoughts) – I try but it doesn’t grow that long.
Cross-country Spikes of choice – This year, I’m wearing Nike Victory
Pre-race meal – Coffee
Professional runner – Kenenisa Bekele
Pump up song – Kardinal Official, feat. Akon, “Dangerous”
Hard with hills, or fast and flat? – Lots of hills. I like the hills.
Who are you looking forward to see at the U Sport championship – My parents are coming. They currently live in Ottawa.
Advice to all runners racing this year – To everyone, and especially the first years, have fun out there. That’s what it’s about!