I am not participating for myself…I am participating on behalf of refugees.
They all fled war and violence in their native South Sudan before finding refuge in Kenya.
Yiech Pur Biel is one of them. He left South Sudan in 2005. He recognised his talent for running when he took part in the athletics competitions in Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya in 2015.
Pur also ran in the Rio Olympics in Brazil in 2016, when the Games hosted the first ever refugee team under the banner ‘Team Refugees’.
“I am very happy. This will be my second event after I came back from Rio. This one will show that a refugee can do something. When we competed in Olympics we showed that we can do something.”
Pur will run in the 800 metres during the Asian Games.
For Ukuk Uthoo Bul, the games are is his first international sports competition. He’s extremely excited and says he’s ready to perform. Ukuk will be running in 3000 metres.
“It is my first time to participate for the Team Refugees.I am not participating for myself…I am participating on behalf of refugees.”
Gai Nyang has lived as a refugee in Kakuma refugee camp for the last 3 years.
He says he realized he had a gift for running from a young age.
“When I came to Kenya where there are champions and many athletes, the country whereby athletics is very important, I thought I would get a chance to show my talent.”
Paulo Amotun Lokoro and Wiyual Puok Deng are the other two participants. They will run in the 1500 and 400 metres respectively.
All the refugee athletes were selected to compete in the Asian Games after winning tough competitive trials in Kenya. The trials were organised by Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation.
Wiyual Puok (left), during one of the intensive training programs in Ngong. UNHCR/M.Ndubi
Wiyual Puok Deng (in grey) and Ukuk Uthoo Bul stretching during their training session in Ngong. UNHCR/M.Ndubi
Paulo Amotum Lokoro at the training ground in Ngong. He will be competing in the 1500 m event in the 5th Asian Indoor Games. UNHCR/M.Ndubi
Pur Biel and Ukuk Uthoo at the Ngong training grounds. UNHCR/M.Ndubi
Wiyual Puok at the training ground in Ngong. He will be competing in the 400m event in the 5th Asian Indoor Games in Ashgabat. UNHCR/M.Ndubi
Gai Nyang Tap at the training ground in Ngong. He will be competing in the 800 m event in the 5th Asian Indoor Games in Ashgabat. UNHCR/M.Ndubi
Coach John Anzara of Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation at the training in Ngong. UNHCR/M.Ndubi
Coach John Anzara of Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation and Gai Yang stretching before training in Ngong. UNHCR/M.Ndubi
Pur Biel and Gai Nyang training in Ngong ahead of the 5th Asian Indoor Games in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan. UNHCR/M.Ndubi
Tegla Loroupe, a Kenyan world record holder in long distance running, has been promoting refugees in sport for several years.
The athletes have had to train long and hard to get to the Games, they say.
Their coach, John Anzara, who works with the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation is confident they will do well at the Games.
“The world should know that this is a refugee team. We go to these big games to perform. These refugees, they are going there to tell the world that with peace in their country, these guys could have been somewhere.”
There are currently 23 refugees training for professional sports under the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation, supported by UNHCR – the UN Refugee Agency.
Good luck #TeamRefugees