Refugee Athletes from Kenya impress at African Athletics Championships in Nigeria

Asaba comes hot on the heels of the team’s commendable performance at the World U18 Athletics Championships in Tampere, Finland.

Seven refugee athletes training under the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation in Kenya and supported by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), International Olympic Committee (IOC) and other donors, continued with their remarkable performance at the just concluded African Athletics Championships in Asaba, Nigeria.

The African Athletics Championships which started on Wednesday, 01 August 2018 and ran until Sunday, 05 August 2018, brought together more than 50 countries competing in various disciplines and, for the first time ever, incorporated a team representing refugees.

The refugee team competing as Athlete Refugee Team (ART) under the flag of the IAAF took part in 800m, 1500m, 5000m and javelin.

‘We gave our all in the 800m and even though we did not win a medal, we posted Personal Best times and the experience will play a great role in our next event,’ said 22-year old Pur Biel who also represented Team Refugees at the Olympic Games in Brazil in 2016.

In javelin, 17-year old Chajen Dang, whose family fled the civil war in South Sudan to Dadaab refugee camp in north-eastern Kenya in 2013, did not get into the medal bracket but threw a Personal Best of 28.41 metres.

“I have gained very helpful experience from this games. My skills will keep improving and one day I will win a medal. I have also made very many friends.’

With very stiff competition from the other athletes, it was notable that three members of the ART made it to the finals in their events for the first time ever. Domnic Lokinyomo and Ukuk Uthoo in 5000m, and Paulo Amotun, 1500m, received accolades for qualifying for the finals.

But perhaps the most notable performance was from Domnic Lokinyomo in the 800m. The 19-year old whose family resides in Kakuma refugee camp in the north-western region of Kenya was able to keep up with the main group of athletes in the finals until the final two laps. Out of 30 athletes, he managed to come 11th in a Personal Best time of 14:07.22.

‘I felt ready for the race today and I am happy my time is good. I also thank all the fans who cheered me on as the race went on. It felt very nice. My practice will begin immediately I get back to Kenya and I am sure one day I will win a medal,’ he declared confidently.

ART at the Stephen Keshi stadium in Asaba, Nigeria UNHCR/Bernard Rono

The seven atheletes at the Stephen Keshi stadium in Asaba, Nigeria UNHCR/Bernard Rono

Members of the ART training under the guidance of Kenyan world renowned marathoner Ambassador Tegla Loroupe, are involved in many exposure events in Kenya and abroad. The project blends both an education component and participation in athletics giving the athletes a clear path to a sustainable future.

‘As UNHCR, we recognise that education is crucial for the athletes and that there should be a balance with sport as this gives the athletes a clear path,’ said Raouf Mazou, UNHCR Country Representative for Kenya.

The Refugee Athletics Project has been implemented in Kenya since 2015. In 2016, the International Olympic Committee invited athletes from the project to take part in the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for the first time ever.

The UN Refugee Agency’s annual Global Trends study found 68.5 million people had been driven from their homes across the world at the end of 2017, more people than the population of Thailand.