Anjelina Nadai Lohalith at the World Athletics Indoor Championships Belgrade 22 (© Dan Vernon)
Two-time Olympian Anjelina Nadai Lohalith will lead a six-strong Athlete Refugee Team (ART) squad at the World Athletics Championships Budapest 23.
Lohalith, 28, is the most experienced member of the team on the global stage, having competed in the 1500m at the Rio and Tokyo Olympic Games and 2017 and 2022 World Championships. Late last year Lohalith moved up in distance and met with immediate success. In February, she claimed a shock win at the European Champion Clubs Cup Cross Country in Castellon, Spain, marking the first time that an athlete in the World Athletics refugee team programme notched a victory in an international competition. That led to a focus on the 5000m this season. Lohalith clocked a modest 16:55.75 in her first race over the distance in February and over the course of three more races has improved to 15:33.85.
Lohalith fled her native South Sudan when she was nine and began running at the Kakuma Refugee Camp in northern Kenya where her talent was spotted, which led to her participation on the inaugural Refugee Olympic Team in 2016. While in Budapest, Lohalith will present the kit she wore in the Castellon race to the Museum of World Athletics at a ceremony at the MOWA exhibition on 22 August.
Lohalith will be joined by Tachlowini Gabriyesos, another Tokyo Olympian and to date, the most successful refugee athlete. The 25-year-old native of Eritrea attracted attention in early 2021 when he clocked 2:10:55 at the Hula Lake Park Marathon in Israel to become the first refugee athlete to achieve an automatic Olympic qualifier. He served as the team's co-flag bearer at the Tokyo opening ceremony and later finished 16th in the marathon. Gabriyesos will arrive in Budapest with a 2:09:00 personal best set at the Seville Marathon in February.
He'll share the start line at Budapest Heroes' Square with Omar Hassan, an ART debutant who qualified for the team by his position in the world rankings. The 25-year-old, who fled from his native Ethiopia to Denmark in 2014, ran a personal best of 2:12:29 in Valencia last December.
Long jumper Mohammad Amin Alsalami, a native of Aleppo, Syria, is also making his ART debut. The 25-year-old, who has been living in Germany since 2015, has a lifetime best of 7.88m outdoors and 7.87m indoors, both set in 2022. He’ll arrive in Budapest with a 7.81w season’s best – and as the first refugee athlete to compete in a technical discipline at the World Championships.
Fouad Idbafdil is another experienced ART member who will be making his second appearance at the World Athletics Championships in the 3000m steeplechase. The 35-year-old Moroccan native improved his personal best to 8:34.72 in July. He also has ART appearances at the 2020 World Half Marathon Championships and the 2023 World Cross Country Championships under his belt.
Perina Lokure Nakang rounds out the squad. The 20-year-old native of South Sudan, who was a member of the first World Athletics U20 Refugee Team programme, will compete in the 800m. Nakang is coached by 2007 world 800m champion Janeth Jepkosgei, who will also serve as a team leader in Budapest.
Last month, World Athletics announced that its World Partner ASICS has become the official sponsor of the Athlete Refugee Team.
Athlete Refugee Team in Budapest
800m: Perina Lokure Nakang
5000m: Anjelina Nadai Lohalith
Marathon: Tachlowini Gabriyesos, Omar Hassan
3000m steeplechase: Fouad Idbafdil
Long jump: Mohammad Amin Alsalami