For the first time in history of Olympics, a refugee team will participate in the athletics discipline. Five South Sudanese refugees living in Kenya will join five other refugees in Rio in what only seemed like a distant dream a year ago.After fleeing war in South Sudan, the five runners will be going to represent millions of refugees at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Next Friday, ten refugee athletes, including the five South Sudanese runners, will run under the Olympic flag as a single team. This would be the first time in history a refugee team completes at the Games.
Anjaline became a refugee in 2002. She had been training for the Olympics for under a year but said she had been improving drastically. Her timing for the 400m run had improved from 85 seconds to around one minute.
The five athletes are residents of the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. After being chosen, they moved to a training facility in Nairobi. Many have family members still in South Sudan or back in Kakuma refugee camp. James Chiengjiek said he left a mother and three sisters behind in South Sudan when he left in 2006. He said his participation in the Olympic Games gives them pride. “It makes them happy that I get this chance and they just give me that encouragement. They told my uncle to come and tell me that I should utilize it well and that I should remember the refugees when I comeback from Rio.” he said.
Rose has been training to participate in the 800 metres run in Rio. She said despite having just a few months of training, she and her teammates would do their best to compete at a higher level. She said “I feel very excited; this is the first chance for the refugees to participate in the Olympics and to give us hope, for us to encourage the young generations, fellow refugees, who are remaining in the camps maybe to continue their talent.”
The team will also include two swimmers from Syria and two Judokas from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as an Ethiopian marathon runner.
They go with a hope that their message of peace would resonate across the world to end the conflicts in their homelands.