Ethiopian Olympian, Marathoner and former refugee Yonas Kinde knows that sport can change lives.
Yonas began running to school in Ethiopia as a teenager rather than taking the bus, and soon started running cross country, 10,000m and half marathons and was a promising runner. However, after fleeing to Luxembourg in 2012 Yonas was granted protection the following year, and has since competed and won several titles in Luxembourg, France and Germany, becoming one of the country’s best long-distance runners. Yonas said “sport has helped me rebuild my life in an unfamiliar place and running has helped me integrate, by helping meet new people and combat feelings of isolation”. To learn the local language, Yonas took up French lessons whilst working as a sports massage practitioner specializing in athletes.
Four years after he first arrived, Yonas was selected to participate in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio as part of the first ever Refugee Olympic Team, where he competed in the Men’s marathon. One of the highlights for him was meeting his old running friends from Ethiopia in the Olympic Village. In 2020, Yonas was the first refugee athlete to compete in the Tokyo Marathon at an Elite level, following in the footsteps of his idol, Ethiopian Olympic medallist Abebe Bikila. Yonas has continued to use his platform to advocate for the power of sports to change lives and has travelled to Geneva, Monaco, Paris and Buenos Aires to represent the Refugee Olympic Team and speak on behalf of refugees. Of his support of UNHCR Yonas has said: “I am proud to advocate for refugees around the world and call for equal access to sport for all”.