Tachlowini Gabriyesos at the World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 (© Getty Images)
Tokyo Olympian Tachlowini Gabriyesos will lead a six-member Athlete Refugee Team (ART) to next month's World Athletics Championships Oregon22.
Gabriyesos, 24, made waves one year ago when he finished 16th in the Olympic marathon in Sapporo, beating some of the world's best marathoners.
“It makes me so proud to once again wear the Athlete Refugee Team vest at the World Championships,” said Gabriyesos, a native of Eritrea who made his Athlete Refugee Team debut at the 2019 World Championships in Doha where he competed in the 5000m. “I don’t represent a country, but millions of people without one. I want to be a role model for refugee youth around the world and wish to show the world once again that refugees can be strong, that we are hungry for success and that we deserve equal opportunities.”
Gabriyesos fled conflict and bloodshed in Eritrea at age 12 and journeyed through Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt before crossing the Sinai desert on foot to Israel where he's been living since 2010. He began running soon after and eventually found that he was best suited for athletics' longest running event.
At the Hahula Galilee Marathon in Israel in March 2021, Gabriyesos clocked 2:10:55 to become the first refugee athlete to meet an Olympic qualifying standard. He later served as the co-flag bearer for the Olympic Refugee Team at Tokyo’s Opening Ceremonies. After his solid performance in Sapporo's hot and muggy conditions, Gabriyesos improved to 2:10:09 at the Seville Marathon in February.
After its involvement with the inaugural Refugee Olympic Team that competed at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, World Athletics established the Athlete Refugee Team in 2017 to provide refugees with high level training and competitive opportunities. It is the world’s only year-round team composed solely of refugee athletes. The team has been represented at almost every World Championship event since, in addition to a growing number of continental and regional events, most recently the European 10,000m Cup in May and the African Championships earlier this month.
"On this World Refugee Day, our Athlete Refugee Team brings a powerful and inspirational message of hope and solidarity to the world, at a time when it's truly needed," said World Athletics President Sebastian Coe. "They're also showing, through their rapid development and world class performances, that they do belong among the world's best athletes."
Representing a community of 89 million
When the refugee team was introduced at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, that squad of 10 – six competing in athletics – represented 65 million people around the world who had been forcibly displaced from their homes. That figure soared to more than 82 million by 2020 and, propelled by conflict, the climate crisis and skyrocketing inequality, has grown to 89.3 million at the end of 2021. The six athletes who are set to compete in Eugene next month will represent a community that collectively would be the 17th most populous country on the planet.
Similarly, the number of athletes involved in the World Athletics Athlete Refugee Team project continues to grow. More than 40 athletes are now involved in the programme, training at their respective bases in Kenya, Israel, France, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Germany, Canada and Portugal.
Gabriyesos will be joined by Jamal Abdalmajid Eisa-Mohammed, a native of Sudan, who will make his second consecutive World Championships appearance in the 5000m. The 28-year-old improved his lifetime best over the distance to 13:42.98 at the Olympic Games last year.
Dorian Keletela, 23, will be making his third ART appearance after outings at the 2021 European Indoor Championships and last summer's Olympic Games in Tokyo. In the Japanese capital, he clocked 10.33 to win his 100m heat in the preliminary round, smashing his previous career best by 0.13. He improved to 10.27 last year and at the moment has a 10.47 season's best.
Fouad Idbafdil, a refugee from Morocco who is based in France, rounds out the men's squad. The 34-year-old steeplechase specialist improved his lifetime best to 8:37.94 nine days ago. He too competed on the ART squad in Doha in 2019.
The women’s team is led by Anjelina Nadai Lohalith, who will bring plenty of experience to the start line of the 1500m. The 27-year-old native of South Sudan, who is based at the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation training camp in Ngong, Kenya, will be making her second World Championships appearance after her debut in 2017. Nadai is a two-time Olympian and most recently competed at the World Indoor Championships in Belgrade in March and the African Championships in Mauritius 11 days ago. She set her 4:31.65 lifetime best in Tokyo last year.
She'll be joined by Atalena Napule Gaspore, another South Sudanese athlete from the Loroupe camp, who will be making her Athlete Refugee Team debut competing in the 800m.
Athlete refugee team for WCH Oregon22
800m: Atalena Napule Gaspore
1500m: Anjelina Nadai Lohalith
100m: Dorian Keletela
5000m: Jamal Abdalmajid Eisa-Mohammed
marathon: Tachlowini Gabriyesos
3000m steeplechase: Fouad Idbafdil