Whether or not the Refugee Olympic Athletes win gold in Rio, they will go down as an inspiration for millions of people around the world.
For the first time in the history of the Olympic Games, a group of 10 athletes will be representing the world’s refugees. These men and women have gone through incredible obstacles to get where they are now. They are an inspiration to people around the world, and have proved that anything is possible with hard work and dedication.
The International Olympic Committee made US gambling news by announcing the creation of the Refugee team in March of 2016. “Their participation in the Olympics is a tribute to the courage and perseverance of all refugees in overcoming adversity and building a better future for themselves and their families.” Said UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Flippo Grandi.
These athletes are all from either Syria or North Africa, and will be competing in swimming, running, and judo. Many people around the world will be hoping the Refugee Olympic Athletes win gold, but their competition is high. We at GamingZion have written on the incredible story of Yusra Mardini, and will now look into the rest of the team.
28 year-old James Chiengjiek is one of five Refugee Olympic Athletes originally from South Sudan. He was born in Bentiu, in Northern South Sudan. If Bentiu sounds familiar, it’s for all the wrong reasons. It was the site of what has been described as the “worst massacre” of the South Sudanese war in 2014.
Chiengjiek’s father, a soldier, was killed during the Second Sudanese Civil War in 1999. Two years later, James fled to Kenya to avoid being drafted as a child soldier. In 2002, he found himself in the Kakuma Refugee Camp.
James Chiengjiek was a runner his whole life. In 2013, he was chosen by the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation to represent South Sudanese athletes. Three years later, he was selected by the International Olympic Committee as an official member of the Refugee Olympic Athletes. Chiengjiek could be a major reason that the Refugee Olympic Athletes win gold in Rio.
Yiech Pur Bel
Another athlete from South Sudan, Biel remained in South Sudan until 2005 when he left to flee the civil war. He too was sent to the Kakuma Refugee Camp. He lived there for 10 years before taking up competitive running in 2015.
Yiech Pur Biel was chosen to join the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation shortly after his competitive athletic career began. He was chosen to join the Refugee Olympic Team in early 2016.
Paulo Lokoro was herding cattle for his family just a couple of year ago. He is another South Sudanese athlete who was forced to flee to Kenya when the war became too dangerous. Paulo, like Chiengjiek and Bel, lived in the Kakuma Refugee Camp before being selected to join the Olympic Refugee team.
Whether or not these Refugee Olympic Athletes win gold or not is beside the point. Lokoro just wants to inspire refugees around the world. “I am so happy,” he says. “I know I am racing on behalf of refugees. I was one of those refugees there in the camp, and now I have reached somewhere special. I will meet so many people. My people will see me on the television, on Facebook.”
At 36 years old, Yonas Kinde is one of the oldest members of the Refugee Olympic Team. He is originally from Ethiopia, but fled the country due to political problems. “It’s a difficult situation,” he says about his life in Ethiopia, “It’s impossible for me to live there… It’s very dangerous for my life.”
Kinde began running competitively as a teenager in cross country. He eventually relocated to Europe, and has been living in Luxembourg for the past five years. He set a personal best during a marathon last year at just two hours and 17 minutes. He will look to continue that success when he competes in Rio.
Popole Misena was one of the athletes we covered in a previous article. The talented judoka hails from Bukavu in the Democratic Republic of Congo, one of the areas worst affected by the Second Congo War. His mother was murdered when he was only six years old, after which he moved to the nation’s capital, Kinshasa.
Misenga began training in Judo at a center for displaced children while living in Kinshasa. “When you are a child, you need to have a family to give you instructions about what to do, and I didn’t have one. Judo helped me by giving me serenity, discipline, commitment – everything.”
Popole entered Brazil in 2013 to compete in the World Judo Championships. After a quick first-round loss, he sought asylum. He was given refugee status in 2014, and now trains under Geraldo Bernardes in the 2016 Olympic host city of Rio de Janeiro. Misenga knows it won’t be easy, but he will be looking to win gold for the refugees around the world.
Stay tuned for part 2 of our series: The Refugee Olympic Athletes Win Gold Medals in the Public’s Heart. Don’t forget to check out GamingZion’s list of online sportsbooks in the US to find the best website for betting on the 2016 Olympics!