Report13 Aug 2016

South Sudan’s Biel, Lohalith and Chiengjiek get Refugee team off to a running start


Anjelina Nadai Lohalith of the Refugee Olympic Team in the 1500m at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (© AFP / Getty Images)

When heat four of the men’s 800m got underway in Rio’s Olympic stadium at 10:34hrs local time today (12), history was made as the first of the Refugee Olympic Team’s track and field squad took to the blue track.

Yiech Pur Biel finished eighth of the nine 800m starters. Later in the day, his teammates Anjelina Nadai Lohalith (women’s 1500m) and James Nyang Chiengjiek (men’s 400m) also toed the start line to much appreciation from the spectators, finishing last in their heats.

Yet the decision to form this Refugee team, which includes many promising talents, was never meant to be about times or statistics.

The team symbolises the struggle of refugees worldwide and offers a symbol of hope to all those who are displaced from their countries, homes and families by factors such as war, famine, disease and civil unrest.

After running his 400m heat this evening, Chiengjiek summed up the day. “I’m so grateful to have been given this opportunity,” he said. “Every one of us (refugee team) is utilising their time well here, representing peace for the sake of their countries.”

Former marathon world record-holder and IAAF Ambassador Tegla Loroupe is Chef de Mission of the Refugee Olympic Team. Loroupe’s charitable foundation, which helped identify some of the talents in the team, is partnered by the IAAF’s social responsibility programme, Athletics for a Better World.


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