Worldwide team of refugess get Olympic welcome in Rio

| August 9, 2016
Congolese judo champion Popole Misenga trains for the Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro.

Congolese judo champion Popole Misenga trains for the Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro.

(GIN)—Athletes from some of the most dangerous countries in the world will be competing with world-class swimmers, runners and equestrians at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janiero, now underway.

The team no sooner arrived when a letter sent by Pope Francis was delivered.

“I extend my greetings and wish you success at the Olympic Games in Rio—that your courage and strength find expression through the Olympic Games and serve as a cry for peace and solidarity,” wrote the Pope. “Your experience serves as testimony and benefits us all. I pray for you and ask that you, please, do the same for me.”

The International Olympics Committee came up with the plan in March, creating a $2 million training fund and shortlisting dozens of refugee athletes for potential selection.

The final team for Rio includes 10 athletes competing in three sports. Half are refugees from South Sudan, two fled Syria, two left the Democratic Republic of the Congo and one is originally from Ethiopia.

IOC president Thomas Bach said: “These refugee athletes will show the world that despite the unimaginable tragedies that they have faced, anyone can contribute to society through their talent, skills and strength of the human spirit.”

Five of the 10 athletes grew up in Kenya’s vast Kakuma refugee camp before joining a special track and field project. Tegla Loroupe used to be one of Kenya’s top marathon runners. The 43-year-old now runs a foundation in her name, partly dedicated to helping refugee athletes train. She will be the refugee team’s leader in Rio.

Among the other refugee team players are: Popole Misenga, Congolese judo athlete who sought asylum in Brazil after the 2013 world championships in Rio. He will be on the official Olympic Refugee Team for the this year’s Games in the same city.

Anjelina Lohalith, 21, who left her home country when she was just eight years old. While her family remains in South Sudan, she will now compete in Rio in the 1500m for the Refugee Olympic Team.

Yonas Kinde, 36, left Ethiopia for Luxembourg in 2012 where he pursued his love for running. He soon became the best long distance runner in the tiny European country.

James Nyang Chiengjiek: South Sudan, 400m – Just 13-years-old when he left his home, Chiengjiek managed to avoid the fate of South Sudan’s child soldiers. He reached Kenya’s Kakuma camp in 2002, quickly capitalizing on his athletic talents despite a lack of top class facilities.

Paul Amotun Lokoro: South Sudan, 100m – Paul Amotun Lokoro fled war in his home country of South Sudan. Years later, the 24-year-old is aiming to not just compete, but thrive at the Olympic Games.”I want to win a gold,” he says. “If I win the race, I will be famous!”

Rose Nathike Lokonyen: South Sudan, 800m – Fourteen years after leaving South Sudan for the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, Rose Nathike Lokonyen is set to line up alongside some of the world’s finest middle distance runners at Rio 2016.

Yiech Pur Biel: South Sudan, 800m—Pur Biel also fled the Sudanese civil war, arriving at the Kakuma camp in 2005. The 21-year-old cites the prospect of Rio 2016 as “a great moment in my life and a story to my children and grandchildren.”

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Category: Africa Briefs

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