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Rwanda's beach volleyballers depart Australia victorious

Denyse Mutatsimpundu of Rwanda competes against Kelsie Wills of New Zealand. Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

GOLD COAST -- It's a long way from Rwanda to Australia, but Charlotte Nzayisenga and Denyse Mutatsimpundu certainly made the most of the trip this past week at the Commonwealth Games.

It's in the seemingly unlikely sport of beach volleyball where the women ply their trade, with the duo signing off their campaign in a winning way on the pristine white sand of Coolangatta on Australia's Gold Coast.

Their 2-0 victory over Singapore on Monday afternoon was their first and only win of the week, but another credible performance on the world stage after they became the first Rwandan team to contest the World Beach Volleyball Championships in 2017.

"Of course, we are very happy to win a single game because now we'll get third place in our group," Mutatsimpundu tells ESPN, despite defeats to New Zealand and Vanuatu.

"Yes, we have enjoyed it. The country is very good, the people we've found here are very good."

It has been an important week for the Rwandan women. On Saturday, the entire crowd on hand at the Coolangatta Beachfront Stadium observed a minute's silence to mark Rwanda's national day of commemoration for the genocide that began on April 7 1994. A period of mourning runs right through to July 4.

It is estimated close to a one million people were killed, with a further two million displaced as refugees.

"Following discussions we have had with Rwandan CGA President and our own President Louise Martin, we have agreed that the 24th anniversary of the Tutsi genocide be marked and respected today," David Grevemberg, Commonwealth Games Federation chief executive, announced before the event.

"You will see in the beach volleyball competition between Rwanda and New Zealand a moment of silence. The Rwanda team will be wearing black armbands to commemorate this moment in their history."

Rwanda is one of only two nations -- Mozambique being the other -- to be admitted to the Commonwealth without having an actual constitutional link to Britain. That process was completed in 2009, and the African nation made its Commonwealth Games debut in Delhi 2010, but this is the first appearance for Nzayisenga and Mutatsimpundu.

"It was very special, because [of] the competition against stronger players; if we get many games we get more experience," Mutatsimpundu says of their appearance on the Gold Coast.

They have already had an impact on the next crop of young beach volleyball players from their country.

"We have [inspired them], the young girls, they got third place in the Commonwealth Youth [Games]," Mutatsimpundu adds.

Moving forward, the Rwandan women are keen to contest the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham and maybe, beforehand, qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.

"We are going to work hard for the chance to come back here to the Commonwealth, and we will come with more energy," Mutatsimpundu says. "We will improve many things."

Rwanda's tale is an important one for those who question the relevance of the Commonwealth Games. It doesn't have to always be about the medal count or a new world record, as some stories are far bigger than that.