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Refugee Olympic Team

Refugee Olympic Team

The Refugee Olympic Team brings hope and inspiration to millions worldwide and shines a light on the power of sport to help displaced people rebuild their lives.

Following the success of Rio 2016, the Refugee Olympic Team returned at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, with 29 refugees participating in 12 events. Through their talents and unique stories of perseverance, they send a powerful message of resilience and hope and show the world the strength of the human spirit.

As the world’s leading agency protecting people who have been forced to flee their homes, UNHCR knows that sport is more than just a leisure activity; it has the power to bring hope, heal and help refugees reclaim their futures.

With over 82 million people now displaced worldwide, UNHCR is working together with governments, the sporting world, civil society and refugees everywhere to build a better world in which every person forced to flee can access and participate in sport, at all levels.


Meet the Refugee Olympic Team members

Yusra Mardini (Sport: Swimming)

Yusra Mardini, the swimmer competing in the Olympics again, used to detest swimming when she was little due to the cold weather back in Syria. However, her father was adamant that she should continue practicing. After countless practice, Yusra began to fall in love with swimming, and she even made becoming competing in the Olympics as her life goal.

When Yusra was 17, the Syrian war broke out, so she attempted to flee to Europe with her sister, Sara. While crossing the Aegean Sea, the engine of their boat suddenly stopped. Luckily, Yusra, Sara and two other people who knew how to swim jumped into the sea and propelled the boat. They swam for more than 3 hours and finally arrived in Lesbos, Greece.

Later, Yusra could not practise swimming during her asylum seeking in Germany, which made her realized how much she loved this sport. As a member of the Refugee Olympic Team in the Tokyo Olympics and UNHCR’s Goodwill Ambassador, Yusra hopes to use sports to inspire people who were forced to flee.

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Cyrille Tchatchet (Sport: Weightlifting)

Cyrille, from Cameroon, suffered from depression because of poverty and discrimination, and he needed medical attention. But since he started weightlifting, he not only rebuilt his life and confidence, but also became a professional athlete. After participating in International Olympic Committee’s Refugee Athlete Support Programme, he broke numerous weightlifting records in the UK in five years, and now, he is competing in the Tokyo Games.

Apart from being an athlete, Cyrille is also a graduate in mental health nursing, hoping to treat other people with emotional issues. With his unique experience, he understands the needs of patients more. “I wanted to give back some of the support... and I am thankful for that,” he shared.

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Masomah Ali Zada (Sport: Cycling)

In Masomah’s hometown Afghanistan, for religious reasons, even if local women leave their homes, they might be threatened with violence. Yet, as a professional cyclist, Masomah not only went out to train every day, but also stepped up to advocate gender equality through sports.

Unfortunately, the public pressure also grew when Masomah’s social status as a professional cyclist raised. One day, a driver intentionally hit Masomah when she was cycling. She was left on the road without any help for hours, and some passersby even threw stones at her. As Masomah’s life was seriously threatened, she was forced to flee to France.

“I fight for women who are deprived of their liberty.” With UNHCR’s help, Masomah got the chance to join the Tokyo Olympic Games. Rather than aiming to gain victory and medals, she wants Afghans to understand that women have the freedom and capability to pursue their dreams.

Jamal Abdelmaji Eisa Mohammed (Sport: Athletics)

Jamal, a 10,000-metre track and field athlete, is from Sudan. Jamal's father died in the conflict in Sudan's Darfur in 2003, when he was not even 10 years old. Seven years later, he fled from his home country and spent a week walking to Egypt. Then, he traversed the Sinai Desert on foot for 3 days and 3 nights, and finally reached Israel to seek asylum.

After settling in Tel Aviv, Israel, Jamal not only worked hard to support his family's life, but also exercised in his free time. He was introduced by a friend to join the Alley Runners Club. After years of training, Jamal is representing the Refugee Olympic Team and compete on behalf of all displaced people. His biggest dream is to be able to return home and reunite with his family after the war.

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