The Refugee Olympic Team: Amidst a global crisis

The Refugee Olympic Team: Amidst a global crisis

The Refugee Olympic Team: Amidst a global crisis

Written by Tharushan Fernando

28 Jul, 2016 | 6:03 pm

With numbers that will leave most in a state of shock, the world is currently facing its biggest refugee crisis to date.



However in a time where millions are facing their personal apocalypse, a sign of hope has risen with 10 refugees athletes taking part in the upcoming Olympics.

While sports-men and women across the world prepare to represent their nation and bring home shiny medals,these 10 individuals have more than their athletic prowess to showcase. Not only will they act as a symbol for those who have no place to call home, they will also act as a reminder to the world and be a window in to the horrendous repercussion of war.


The team is the first of its kind and the athletes will be a part of the Refugee Olympic Team (ROT). Like everyother team the ROT will have its own entourage to meet all the required technical needs of the athletes. Olympian and former marathon world record-holder Tegla Loroupe (Kenya) was named the team’s Chef de Mission, while Isabela Mazão (Brazil), who was proposed by the UNHCR, will act as the Deputy Chef de Mission. They will lead a crew of five coaches and five other team officials.

Ten Athletes;10 Stories


[image_slider link=”” source=””]SWIMMING-Rami Anis (M): Country of origin – Syria; host NOC – Belgium/
Yusra Mardini (F): Country of origin – Syria; host NOC – Germany;  [/image_slider]

[image_slider link=”” source=””] Yiech Pur Biel (M): Country of origin – South Sudan; host NOC – Kenya; sport – athletics, 800m
James Nyang Chiengjiek (M): Country of origin – South Sudan; host NOC – Kenya; sport – athletics, 400m
Yonas Kinde (M): Country of origin – Ethiopia; host NOC – Luxembourg; sport – athletics, marathon
Paulo Amotun Lokoro (M): Country of origin – South Sudan; host NOC – Kenya; sport – athletics, 1500m [/image_slider]

[image_slider link=”” source=””] Angelina Nadai Lohalith (F): Country of origin – South Sudan; host NOC – Kenya; sport – athletics, 1500m
Rose Nathike Lokonyen (F): Country of origin – South Sudan; host NOC – Kenya; sport – athletics, 800m

[image_slider link=”” source=””] Yolande Bukasa Mabika (F): Country of origin – Democratic Republic of the Congo; host NOC – Brazil; sport – judo, -70kg
Popole Misenga (M): Country of origin – Democratic Republic of the Congo; host NOC – Brazil; sport – judo, -90kg [/image_slider]




Rami Anis, 25, Syria, 100-metre butterfly

Rami Anis started formal swimming training as a 14-year-old growing up in Aleppo.As bombings and kidnappings in Aleppo grew more frequent, his family put him on a flight to Istanbul to live with an older brother who was studying Turkish

Without Turkish nationality, Rami was unable to swim in competitions.

“It’s like someone who is studying, studying, studying and he can’t take the exam.” he said

Determined to prove himself, Rami rode an inflatable dinghy to the Greek island of Samos. Eventually he reached the Belgian town of Ghent, where he’s been training nine times a week with former Olympic swimmer Carine Verbauwen


Yolande Mabika, 28, Democratic Republic of the Congo, middleweight

Conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo separated Yolande Mabika from her parents when she was only a young child. She recalls little else but running alone and being picked up by a helicopter that took her to the capital, Kinshasa. There, living in a centre for displaced children, she discovered judo




Paul Amotun

Paulo Amotun Lokoro, 24, South Sudan, 1,500 metres

Paulo Amotun Lokoro was a young herder guarding his family’s few cattle on the plains of what is now South Sudan. All his life he has known and seen war in his homeland and knew little else. Conflict pushed him to flee to neighboring Kenya.Living in a refugee camp, Paulo excelled in school sports, ultimately gaining a spot on the refugee squad now training near Nairobi under the guidance of Tegla Loroupe, the renowned Kenyan runner who holds several world records



FILE - This is a Monday, Nov. 9, 2015 file photo of Yusra Mardini from Syria poses during a training session in Berlin, Germany. They’ve fled war and violence in the Middle East and Africa. They’ve crossed treacherous seas in small dinghies and lived in dusty refugee camps.They include a teenage swimmer Yusra Mardini from Syria, long-distance runners from South Sudan and judo and taekwondo competitors from Congo, Iran and Iraq. They are striving to achieve a common goal: To compete in the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Not for their home countries, but as part of the first ever team of refugee athletes.(AP Photo/Michael Sohn, File)

Yusra Mardini, 18, Syria, 200-metre freestyle

On a flimsy vessel was stranded off the Turkish coast with about 20 other desperate passengers, the teenager from Damascus slipped into the water with her sister, Sarah, and began pushing the boat towards Greece.After arriving on the Greek island of Lesvos, she travelled north with a group of asylum-seekers, occasionally turning to people-smugglers.

Pur Biel

Yiech Pur Biel, 21, South Sudan, 800 metres

Forced to flee the fighting in southern Sudan in 2005, he ended up on his own in a refugee camp in northern Kenya. Competing in the 800 metres at Rio, Yiech says, could help him to become an ambassador for refugees everywhere. “I can show to my fellow refugees that they have a chance and a hope in life. Through education, but also in running, you can change the world.”



Kenya. Refugee athletes train for Rio 2016 Olympic GamesRose Nathike Lokonyen, 23, South Sudan, 800 metres

Fleeing war in South Sudan when she was 10 years old; Rose discovered her talent.during a school competition in the refugee camp in northern Kenya where she lives, a teacher suggested that she run a 10-kilometre race.Rose has since moved to a training camp near the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, where she is preparing to run the 800-metre event at the Olympics.


2AD-OjiLJames Nyang Chiengjiek, 28, South Sudan, 800 metres

James Nyang Chiengjiek was only 13 when he fled home, in what was then, southern Sudan to avoid being kidnapped by rebels who were forcibly recruiting child soldiers.




Anjelina Nadai Lohalith, 21, South Sudan, 1,500 metres

Last time Anjelina saw or spoke to her parents,she was only 6 years old. She was forced to flee her home in southern Sudan amidst the war closing in on her village



Refugee Athlete Yonas KindeYonas Kinde, 36, Ethiopia, marathon

The 36 year-old has lived in Luxembourg for five years now.He’s been taking French classes regularly, and driving a taxi to earn a living, all the while pushing himself to become a better runner. However before he found a life in his new home memories of fleeing his home remain uncomfortable territory. “It’s a difficult situation,” he says about life in Ethiopia. “It’s impossible for me to live there… It’s very dangerous for my life.”



refugiados_congo_atletas_alexferro.30032016-3599_0Popole Misenga, 24, Democratic Republic of the Congo, middleweight

Only nine years old when he fled fighting in Kisangani, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo young Popole was separated from his family, and was rescued after eight days in the forest and taken to the capital, Kinshasa.There, at a centre for displaced children, he discovered judo.

“When you are a child, you need to have a family to give you instructions about what to do, and I didn’t have one. Judo helped me by giving me serenity, discipline, commitment – everything.” he said


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