Refugee runners, eyeing Tokyo 2020, win Geneva road race

Refugee athletes dominate 10 kilometre race with the Tokyo Olympics in sight.

Ten kilometre race winner Domnic Lokinyomo Lobalu stands on the podium in Geneva, with Paulo Amotun Lokoro, who placed second, and third-placed Morgan Le Guen. © UNHCR/Bernard Rono

GENEVA – Refugee athletes emerged victorious in a 10 kilometre road race in Geneva on Saturday, finishing first, second, fourth and fifth in another step towards consideration for next year’s Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games when a team of refugees will compete.

Domnic Lokinyomo Lobalu won the race before a crowd of thousands in 29.14 minutes, smashing the course record of 30.52 minutes set in 2018 by Swiss athlete Huwiler Thomas. Lobalu’s time is still more than three minutes outside the world record for a 10 kilometre road race, and he is already focused on improving it.

“I am very happy to have won today. I am going back to even more intense training when I return to Kenya,” said Lobalu, who is originally from South Sudan.

Lobalu has previously said that – if given the opportunity – he wants to become the first refugee to win an Olympic medal.

Domnic Lokinyomo Lobalu won the race before a crowd of thousands in 29.14 minutes, smashing the course record of 30.52 minutes set in 2018

Second place in the race at the Harmony Geneva Marathon by UNICEF went to Paulo Amotun, who competed on the Refugee Olympic Team at the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics. His time was 30:32 minutes. Athlete Morgan Le Guen came third while Simon Ayong and Pur Biel finished fourth and fifth.

The International Olympic Committee announced in October that a Refugee Olympic Team would compete in the Tokyo 2020 Games, following the ground-breaking debut of refugee athletes in Rio. It is expected to announce the refugee team early next year.

The refugee Olympians achieved a high profile in Rio, in part because of the event’s international character and also because many of the athletes have overcome hardship.

Refugee athlete Gatkuoth Puok finished 83rd place in the half marathon event in Geneva in a time of 1.21.37 hours, though complained of a stitch.