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Make a Mark refugee athletes selected for Tokyo 2020

Copyrights: Make a Mark; from L to R - Luna, Khaoula and Mahdi, the three Make a Mark athletes

Make a Mark refugee athletes selected for Tokyo 2020

“Make a Mark” achieves historic milestone as Luna and Mahdi head to Olympic Games Tokyo 2020

Refugee athlete Luna Solomon and displaced Afghan athlete Mahdi Yovari have been selected for the IOC Refugee Olympic Team (EOR) and Afghanistan National Olympic Committee Tokyo 2020 team, respectively, in a historic breakthrough for the Make a Mark project.

The Make a Mark project was founded by three-time Olympic gold medallist in sport shooting, Niccolo Campriani, and relies on crowdfunding and donations from the sports community, including another fellow Olympic champion, Abhinav Bindra. The project aims to enable the next generation of Olympians to help refugees and forcibly displaced people compete in sport and embrace the Olympic values.

Both Luna and Mahdi will compete in the 10 meter air rifle event at the Olympic Games this summer. 27-year-old Luna and 24-year-old Mahdi have trained with the first-ever Make a Mark team since 2019, after being selected and coached by Nicco.

Luna first arrived in Switzerland in 2015 after she was forced to flee war-torn Eritrea due to widespread human rights atrocities.

Luna said:

“It is almost impossible to put into words how joining the EOR feels. To get to this moment has required a lot of hard work and training, but every second has been filled with self-discovery, learning and laughter.

“In sport I have finally found peace. On the range, there is just me, my thoughts, my hopes and my target. In Tokyo this will be no different, and I am ready to make my mark, not just for myself, but also for my one-year-old baby boy.”

An Afghan national raised in Iran, Mahdi had to leave his family as a teenager seeking asylum in other countries and settled in Nyon, Switzerland four years ago. For Mahdi, speaking about his past is too painful, and he instead focuses on his training and the fast-approaching Tokyo Olympic Games.

Mahdi said:

“When I left Iran, I could not choose my destination. But now, through the Make a Mark project, I have been able to control my path towards my goal, the Olympic Games, where I will proudly represent my native country, Afghanistan. I have dreamt of the Games every day since being selected for this project, and it feels incredible for this dream to have now become my reality.

“By competing at the Games, I want to send a message to the whole world and change people’s opinions of asylum seekers, refugees and displaced people. A message that says we are here, we are human and we have ambitions, fears, passions and dreams.”

Nicco said:

“It has been an honour to coach Luna and Mahdi and I am so proud of what they have achieved. They have both worked relentlessly for this opportunity and I can say with all my heart that they deserve it. With less than two years of training in a new sport, both Luna and Mahdi achieved the minimum qualifying score for the Olympic Games which is a fantastic achievement in itself.

“They can now proudly introduce themselves as Olympians. And for me, all I want to see at Tokyo is a positive attitude and for them both to learn as much as possible from the experience.

“I started Make a Mark with an ambitious but clear goal in mind – to help refugees and displaced people compete in sport and, ultimately, at Tokyo 2020. But this would not have been possible without the commitment and enthusiasm of our athletes and the dedicated team behind them.

“All of Make a Mark’s athletes have brought me so much meaning, joy and, most importantly, friendship. I think in many ways they gave me the chance to experience some of the most fulfilling days of my sport career after my retirement!”

Make a Mark is striving to inspire the next Olympians and Olympic leaders to make their mark by taking the project forward in other sports, whether summer or winter, and providing more opportunities for refugees and displaced people to compete in elite-level sport.

“Make a Mark not only serves to provide an incredible opportunity for refugees and displaced people, but it is a unique and impactful way for Olympians to give back and find meaning after an Olympic career,” said Nicco.


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Tuesday, June 8, 2021 - 16:32

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