They will form a team unlike any other that has competed in the Olympic Game before. The 10 refugee athletes set to compete at Rio 2016 were announced by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Friday (3 June), giving hope to people displaced by war and social unrest all over the world.
Five runners from South Sudan, two swimmers from Syria, two judokas from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and a marathon runner from Ethiopia will march under the Olympic flag at the opening ceremony on 5 August at the Maracanã Stadium.
The team is lead by former marathon World Record holder – Tegla Loroupe
Tegla Loroupe was born in Kutomwony village in the Lelan division of West Pokot District. It is situated in the Rift Valley, approximately 600 kilometres north of Nairobi. Her father and mother are from the Pokot tribe, a Nilotic ethnic group inhabiting parts of northern Kenya, eastern Uganda and southern Ethiopia.
Loroupe grew up with 24 siblings. The Pokots being a polygamous culture, her father had four wives. She spent her childhood working fields, tending cattle and looking after younger brothers and sisters.
At the age of six, Loroupe started school at Kapsait Elementary school; she had to run ten kilometres to and from school every morning. At school, she became aware of her potential as an athlete when she won races held over a distance of 800 or 1500 metres against students much older again. She decided to pursue a career as a runner. However, except for her mother, she was not supported by anyone.
The Kenyan athletics federation, Athletics Kenya, did not support her at first, thinking Loroupe too small and too thin. However, after she won a prestigious cross country barefoot race in 1988, this changed. She began to train to compete internationally the following year, earning her first pair of running shoes in 1989, which she wore only for particularly rough races. She was nominated for the junior race of the 1989 IAAF World Cross Country Championships finishing 28th. She competed again at the 1990 IAAF World Cross Country Championships, finishing 16th in the junior race.
In 1994 and 1998, Loroupe won the Goodwill Games over 10,000 metres, barefoot. Over the same distance she won bronze medals at the IAAF World Championships in Athletics 1995 and 1999.
In 1994, Loroupe ran her first major marathon in New York. Running against the world’s strongest competition, she won. As a consequence she was idolised by many young people in Africa: at last, a woman champion to complement the many successful male runners. She won the New York City Marathon again in 1995 and finished 3rd in 1998.
Between 1997 and 1999, she won three world titles a row over the half marathon distance. She won Rotterdam Marathon three times between 1997 and 1999. She won Berlin Marathon in 1999 and finished second in 2001. She finished second at the 1999 Osaka International Ladies Marathon.
Loroupe won the Zevenheuvelenloop 15K race in the Netherland three times (1992, 1993 and 1998). She is a seven-time Egmond Half Marathon winner (1993–1998, 2000). She has won the Lisbon Half Marathon a record six times: 1994–1997, 1999 and 2000. She has won the Tilburg road race, a five times (1993, 1994, 1996, 1998, 1999), also a record number. She won the Paris Half Marathon in 1994 and 1998, City-Pier-City Loop half marathon in the Hague in 1998, and the Parelloop10K in race in the Netherlands in 1999.
During the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, favoured to win both the marathon and the 10,000 meters, she suffered from violent food poisoning the night before the race. Nevertheless, she fought through the marathon race, finishing 13th, then, the next day, ran the 10,000 metres, finishing 5th, running barefoot in both races, a feat she later stated she achieved out of a sense of duty to all the people taking her as a bearer of hope in her home country. Until the end of 2001, she continued to suffer from various health problems.
In 2000 she won London Marathon and Rome City Marathon. She also won Lausanne Marathon in 2002, Cologne Marathon in 2003 and Leipzig Marathon in 2004.
Loroupe competed at the 2005 World Championships marathon race in Helsinki, Finland, but finished only 40th. In February 2006 she won the Hong Kong Half-Marathon. The same year she finished 5th in the Rotterdam Marathon and 2nd in the Venice Marathon. In 2007 she participated again the New York City Marathon, finishing 8th.
Loroupe’s biggest successes include world records over 20, 25 and 30 kilometres as well as the past record over the marathon distance. She used to hold the One Hour running World record of 18,340 m set in Borgholzhausen, Germany, but the record was broken by Dire Tune of Ethiopia ten years later, in 2008 (new record 18,517 m).
- Rami Anis (male): Country of origin – Syria; host NOC – Belgium; sport – swimming
- Yiech Pur Biel (male): Country of origin – South Sudan; host NOC – Kenya; sport – athletics, (800m)
- James Nyang Chiengjiek (male): Country of origin – South Sudan; host NOC – Kenya; sport – athletics (400m)
- Yonas Kinde (male): Country of origin – Ethiopia; host NOC – Luxembourg; sport – athletics (marathon)
- Anjelina Nada Lohalith (female): Country of origin – South Sudan; host NOC – Kenya; sport – athletics (1500m)
- Rose Nathike Lokonyen (female): Country of origin – South Sudan; host NOC – Kenya; sport – athletics (800m)
- Paulo Amotun Lokoro (male): Country of origin – South Sudan; host NOC – Kenya; sport – athletics (1500m)
- Yolande Bukasa Mabika (female): Country of origin – Democratic Republic of the Congo; host NOC – Brazil; sport – judo, (70kg)
- Yusra Mardini (female): Country of origin – Syria; host NOC – Germany; sport – swimming
- Popole Misenga (male): Country of origin – Democratic Republic of the Congo; host NOC – Brazil; sport – judo (-90kg)