They don’t have a country to represent or a flag to salute or a national anthem to sing, but they have the determination to compete at the Olympic Games and come out shining for the sake of their passion for sports. Ten refugee athletes have qualified for the much awaited games and are all set to make a mark in history. They are called “Team of Refugee Olympic Athletes”.
The refugee team comprises of athletes who have fled from their nations due to reasons like terrorism, prolonged conflicts, civil wars, economic crisis and environmental changes. While some belong to the ISIS controlled Syria and some to the civil war affected Sudan amongst others, every athlete has just one goal in mind – the Olympic gold medal! Let’s take a look at the ten brave members of the team:
Syrian refugee Rami Anis had to leave his hometown of Aleppo at the age of 20 at the onset of the Syrian War. It has been five years now and Anis, who trains in Belgium with former Olympic swimmer Carine Verbauwen, is looking forward to compete in the 100m butterfly at the Rio Olympics.
Yiech Pur Biel
In order to escape a violent civil war, Yiech Pur Biel fled Sudan eleven years ago. Now training in Kenya, the 21-year-old will compete in the 800m at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
James Nyang Chiengjiek
He was only 13 when he fled South Sudan in an escape attempt from being kidnapped by rebels who were forcing children to fight the war. Now James Nyang Chiengjiek, 24, is set to change his life and compete in the 400m at the Olympics.
Unable to cope with the extensive political and economical problems of his country – Ethopia, Yonas Kinde had been living in Luxembourg for five years under special protection. The 36-year old will represent the refugee team as a marathoner.
Anjelina Nada Lohalith
Anjelina Nadai Lohalith never saw her parents after she fled the war in South Sudan as the age of 6. Today a young woman of 21, she hopes that her participation in the Rio Olympics where she will run will unite her with her family.
Rose Nathike Lokonyen
The ‘barefoot runner’ Rose Nathike Lokonyen used to run without shoes through the Kenyan refugee camp which she called home for a year until she decided to go to the Olympics. She will be running in the 800m.
Paulo Amotun Lokoro
A simple man who used to herd cattle for his family in South Sudan, Paulo Amotun Lokoro‘s life took a drastic U-turn when the civil war broke. Living in Kenya as a refugee, the 24-year old is going to run in the 1500m at the Olympic Games.
Yolande Bukasa Mabika
Originally from Bukavu which is one of the regions of the Democratic Republic of the Congo highly affected by the country’s civil war from 1998 to 2003, Yolande Bukasa Mabika was separated from her parents at an early age and was taken to Kinshasa where she learnt judo. She will compete in the sport in the Olympics.
Another athlete to compete in judo is Popole Misenga who grew up in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the civil war had ended countless lives, including his mother’s. At the age of 9, Misenga fled his hometown Kisangani and took refuge in the wild for eight days until he was rescued and taken to Kinshasa.
The 18 year old Syrian girl fled her country two years ago when she was forced to swim across the Mediterranean Sea. Yusra Mardini will represent the first ever Olympic refugee team in swimming.
(All photos by IOC)