Olympic Refugee Team will Feature Ten Athletes from Syria, DRC, Ethiopia, and South Sudan

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) today announced who will compete as part of a historic first-ever Olympic refugee team. The announcement, which came this morning, revealed the names of 10 athletes from Syria, Ethiopia, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo who will vie for Olympic gold in Rio De Janeiro beginning on August 5th.

The refugees now will compete both for personal glory and to raise awareness of the current global refugee crisis that affects their friends, families, and countrymen. The two Syrian members of the team will undoubtedly be cheered on by over four million fellow refugees from their country and the 7.6 million who are displaced within their former home. At the announcement IOC President Thomas Bach said the team represents a “symbol of hope” and is “a signal to the international community that refugees are our fellow human beings and are an enrichment to society.”

The members of Team Refugee Olympic Athletes (ROA) are:

  • Yusra Mardini, Syria, 200m butterfly swimmer. Now living in Germany, Mardini left his home in Syria in 2015, crossing the Mediterranean on a small inflatable boat.
  • Rami Anis, Syria, 100m butterfly swimmer. Anis lives and trains in Belgium, after initially leaving Syria for Turkey, he successfully made it to Greece on an inflatable craft, before making it to his new home.
  • Yolande Mabika, Democratic Republic of the Congo, middleweight judoka. Mabika was raised in a center for displaced children after she was separated from her family during the DRC’s civil war. Trained in Judo, she applied for asylum in Brazil in 2013, when she travelled to the site of the Olympics to compete in the sports world championships.
  • Popole Misenga, Democratic Republic of the Congo, middleweight judoka. Also separated from his family during the DRC’s civil war, Misenga found a new home in Brazil where he and his fellow Olympian Yolande Mabika (see above) train in Judo for the Games.
  • James Nyang Chiengjiek, South Sudan, 800m runner. Chiengjiek left South Sudan as at a young age in order to not become a child solider in the country’s civil war. He found a new home in neighboring Kenya.
  • Anjelina Nadai Lohalith, South Sudan, 1,500m runner. At the tender age of six Lohalith was taken by a relative to Kenya to protect her from the violence of South Sudan’s civil war.
  • Yiech Pur Biel, South Sudan, 800m runner. At ten years old Biel left his home to find refuge in Kenya. Astonishingly, Biel had never trained for the 800m until he attended an open trial in 2015.
  • Paulo Amotun Lokoro, South Sudan, 1,500m runner. Lokoro works on a ranch when not training, but ten years ago he was a child that found refuge from the South Sudan civil war in Kenya with his mother.
  • Rose Nathike Lokonyen, South Sudan, 800m runner. The South Sudan’s civil war affected the lives of many of the team’s members. When he was nine years old, Lokonyen fled to a refugee camp in Kenya with his family. He now lives and trains in his new home.
  • Yonas Kinde, Ethiopia, marathoner. From Ethiopia, Kinde fled his home country and settled in Luxembourg three years ago. He now lives and trains there.

Earlier this year, Ibrahim Al-Hussein, a 27-year-old Syrian refugee, carried the Rio 2016 Olympic Torch through the Eleonas refugee and migrant camp in central Athens. The camp held 1,500 refugees at the time.

For Mardini and Anis, the announcement follows some sad news. Last week, at least 880 migrants and refugees died trying to cross the same body of water the athletes crossed on their way to refuge, the Mediterranean. It made May one of the deadliest months for those fleeing via boat, the U.N. Refugee Agency noted that since the beginning of this year at least 2,510 migrants and refugees have died in shipwrecks and capsizes.

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Published on June 3, 2016

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