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Refugee Olympic Team makes history

Popole Misenga, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo, left, practices judo. (Image by Felipe Dana for the Canadian Press)

For the first time in Olympic history 10 refugee athletes are competing as part of the Refugee Olympic Team. A refugee is a person who has been forced to flee his or her home country. The athletes on the team have both a country of origin that they have left and a host nation where they currently live. In order to make the team, they had to qualify on specific sporting standards and have official refugee status verified by the United Nations. The 10 athletes represent refugees worldwide as they compete in three different sports: swimming, athletics, and judo.

For talented athletes such as marathon runner Yonas Kinde, this is the first opportunity to compete in the Olympic Games. Yonas overcame unimaginable difficulties in order to make it to the 2016 Rio Olympics. He and the other athletes that form the team are the first ever to march under the Olympic Rings flag at the opening ceremony on August 5th.

The president of the International Olympic Committee unveiled the Refugee Olympic Team by saying, “these refugees have no home, no team, no flag, no national anthem. We will offer them a home in the Olympic Village together with all the athletes of the world.” The team reflects the true spirit of the Olympic games. Cheer on these amazing athletes as they compete in Rio!

Rami Anis Athlete BioRami Anis

“It will be a great feeling to be part of the Olympics. It is the biggest event in the world. I will be very proud because I will compete with world champions.”

Sport: Swimming - 100m butterfly

Country of Origin: Syria
Host Country: Belgium


Yiech Pur Biel Athlete BioYiech Pur Biel

“I can show my fellow refugees that they have a chance and a hope in life.”

Sport: Athletics - 800m
Country of Origin: South Sudan
Host Country: Kenya


James Nyang ChiengjekJames Nyang Chiengjiek

“My dream is to get good results at the Olympics and also to help people. Because I have been supported by someone, I also want to support someone.”

Sport: Athletics - 400m
Country of Origin: South Sudan
Host Country: Kenya


Yonas Kinde Athlete Bio Yonas Kinde

 “I will go to participate in the Olympic Games. I will be proud, I will be happy.”

Sport: Athletics - Marathon
Country of Origin: Ethiopia
Host Country: Luxembourg


Anjelina Nadai Lohalith Athlete BioAnjelina Nadai Lohalith

“I’m happy because it will be the first time refugees are represented in the Olympics. It will inspire other refugees.”

Sport: Athletics - 1500m
Country of origin: South Sudan
Host Country: Kenya


Rose Nathike Lokonyen Athlete Bio Rose Nathike Lokonyen

“I started running when I was in high school. I love running and now it is my career.”

Sport: Athletics - 800m
Country of origin: South Sudan
Host Country: Kenya


Paulo Amotun Lokoro Athlete Bio Paulo Amotun Lokoro

“A dream would be to break a record. To win a medal, a gold, that is my dream.”

Sport: Athletics - 1500m
Country of origin: South Sudan
Host Country: Kenya


Yoland Bukasa Mabika Athlete Bio Yolande Bukasa Mabika

“Judo never gave me money, but it gave me a strong heart.”

Sport: Judo - 70kg 
Country of origin: Democratic Republic of the Congo
Host Country: Brazil


Yusra Mardini Athlete Bio Yusra Mardini

“I want everyone to stay strong for their goals in life, because if you have your goals in front of your eyes, you will do everything you can.”

Sport: Swimming - 100m freestyle
Country of origin: Syria
Host Country: Germany


Popole Misenga Athlete Bio Popole Misenga

“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 calmness, discipline, direction - everything. It is a part of my life.”

Sport: Judo - 90kg
Country of origin: Democratic Republic of the Congo
Host Country: Brazil