You are here

Refugee Olympic Team turns dreams into reality in Rio

Refugee Olympic Team turns dreams into reality in Rio

Ten refugees who fled violence and persecution have overcome adversity to excel in their sports.

Ten refugees who made history as members of the first-ever Refugee Olympic Team have started competing at Rio 2016. The team includes two Syrian swimmers, two judokas from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a marathoner from Ethiopia and five middle-distance runners from South Sudan.

Recent highlights from the live blog
Tuesday will see south Sudanese refugee Paulo Amotun Lokoro run in the men’s 1500m event. As he was preparing for his big moment on the world stage, his mother spoke to UNHCR and sent her son a message of encouragement.

Friday was a full day of track and field and #teamrefugees got off to a flying start. Yiech Pur Biel came out strongly in his 800m heat, but faded towards the end. However, he fullfilled a dream and took a huge step forward on his long journey from darkness in war-wracked south Sudan. He ran in the Olympics and did not come last. "I only had eight months training, I know I can go much further now... I have overcome so many challenges, and this has opened my eyes," he said afterwards.

Later, it was the turn of Anjelina Lohalith in the women's 1500m and James Nyang Chiengjiek in the men's 800m. Both found it tough after a mere eight months training as opposed to years put in by competitors. But they finished and were warmly applauded by the appreciative crowd.

“Even though my time was high, I am happy that I have completed the competition. Even though I was the last, I believe that next time I will be in front of them (the other competitors),” Anjelina told UNHCR’s Miguel Pachioni after the race.

“It has been really an amazing experience. It is my first time in Rio, competing with great athletes. It is just a beginning of my career in sports and I really wish to be able to do better,” she added.

Yiech said he had loved the experience of being at Rio2016 Olympics and it had inspired him to keep on training and aiming for new heights. “It´s the first time for me, and I liked it. The travel, the way we´re staying in Rio…. Actually, it changed my life. Not only me, but all the 10 athletes of the Refugee Team. We feel happy,” he told UNHCR’s Luiz Godinho. 

"I never thought I would be in the Olympics, in my life. But now it's a reality. Because most of my life, I stayed in a camp. But now I can change my life.”


Article type



Thursday, July 28, 2016 - 11:38

E-Newsletter subscribe