Refugee athlete takes part in Tokyo Marathon 2020

Ethiopian marathon runner Yonas Kinde trains for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Luxembourg, May 2016.  © UNHCR/Gordon Welters

A refugee athlete has been selected as an elite runner for the Tokyo Marathon for the first time in the event’s history. Yonas Kinde, who currently lives in Luxembourg, will take part in the Marathon on 1 March 2020.

 

Yonas participated at the Olympic Games Rio 2016 as a member of the first-ever Refugee Olympic Team created by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). He continues his training as an IOC Refugee Athlete Scholarship Holder and will compete as part of his efforts to secure selection in the IOC Refugee Olympic Team Tokyo 2020.

 

He comes from Ethiopia, the country of the famous “barefoot runner” Abebe Bikila. Abebe is known for winning gold medals in the marathon at two consecutive Olympic Games, including the Olympic Games Tokyo 1964. For Yonas, it has been a dream to run in Tokyo, as he deeply admires Abebe – an Ethiopian hero.

 

“Growing up, Abebe was an inspiration to me and I am delighted to be able to run in Tokyo, where he achieved so much”, Yonas says. “Through my participation, I hope to send the message that, if supported, refugees can unlock great potential.”

 

Those who participate at the elite category are runners who meet specific requirements set by the Japan Association of Athletics Federations (JAAF).

Yonas received the elite runner status following an initiative of Japan for UNHCR (J4U), the national partner of the UN Refugee Agency in the country.

It will be Yonas’s first visit to Japan. During his stay, he will train at the Tokorozawa Campus of Waseda University.

 

The refugees’ participation at the Olympic Games Rio 2016 gave courage and hope to millions of people who have been forced to flee their homes due to conflict and persecution. It also testified to the enormous strength of refugee athletes, who strive to do their best despite facing adversity.

 

The IOC Refugee Olympic Team Tokyo 2020 will be announced in June.

 

About UNHCR:

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was established on 14 December 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly. The agency is mandated to lead and coordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee issues. It strives to ensure that everyone has the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another state, with the option to voluntarily return home when conditions are conducive for return, integrate locally or resettle to a third country. UNHCR has twice won the Nobel Peace Prize, in 1954 for its ground-breaking work in helping the refugees of Europe, and in 1981 for its worldwide assistance to refugees.