Thursday, August 10, 2017

Leading from the front – how athletics promotes refugees

The essence of sporting endeavour for many is the human stories that lie at the heart of competition. The athletics World Championships taking place in London during this rainy August have been no exception.

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We’ve already seen a smiling Usain Blot depart still the darling of the crowd, while an ecstatic Mo Farah claimed gold in the 10,000m and has the 5000m crown in his sights.

Yet perhaps the greatest tale of all belongs to a group of five athletes – all refugees.

Based in Kenya where they train together, it’s the first time in the 34 year history of the Championships that an Athlete Refugee Team has taken part.

This follows in the footsteps of the refugee team who competed under one banner at the Rio Olympics last summer.

At London Ahmed Bashir Farah, who’s nineteen, competed in the 800 metres. He fled the violence in Somalia with his family when he was just nine years old.

Despite never having raced at such a level and only joining the team in March, Farah kept pace with the other athletes, but went out in the heats.

Anjelina Lohalith, from South Sudan, will be running in the women’s 1500m while Dominic Lobalu will go in the 1500 metres and Rose Lokonyen in the 800 metres.

Kadar Omar, who’s 21 and from Ethiopia, recently moved up from the 1500m to 5000m, having smashed his own personal best in the event.

The Athlete Refugee Team – who fled civil wars and other dangers such as the prospect of being forced to become child soldiers – were selected after trials organized by the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation.

Long-distance runner, Tegla Loroupe, is the world record holder for 20, 25 and 30 kilometres and has been coaching the five athletes and other refugees.

Emma Williams, STAR’s Chief Executive, said: “What we are seeing is international athletics leading from the front when it comes to refugees being given the same opportunities to show their sporting talent.

“For these athletes and for refugees everywhere they have achieved a victory before the starting gun even sounds. Remember they are representing a global community of 65 million.

“These competitors – who cannot live or work in their home countries – have rightly said that being able to race on the world stage means that are seen as ‘equal human beings’.

“Their very presence in the stadium in London sends a message to the displaced about hope for the future.”

Posted by STAR team on 10/08/2017 at 02:01 PM