Angelina Nadai Lohalith in Castellon (© Organisers)
Athlete Refugee Team member Angelina Nadai Lohalith claimed a shock win at the European Champion Clubs Cup Cross Country in Castellon, Spain, on Sunday (05), marking the first time that an athlete in the World Athletics refugee team programme notched a victory in an international competition.
Lohalith, a native of South Sudan who is based in Kenya, surged from the field after four laps of the five-lap contest, clocking 27:55 over the 8.7km course to secure a five-second victory. Running confidently at the head of the pack from the gun, Lohalith pulled ahead after three laps and extended her lead to six seconds after the fourth lap before crossing the line unchallenged.
Lohalith, who was a member of the 2016 and 2021 Olympic Refugee Teams, was competing in Castellon as a guest for Tel Aviv’s Alley Runners Club, where several other Athlete Refugee Team members are based.
The 28-year-old is the Athlete Refugee Team’s most experienced runner.
Lohalith made her Athlete Refugee Team (ART) debut at the 2017 World Championships in London and in 2022 represented the Athlete Refugee Team at the World Indoor Championships Belgrade 22, the African Championships and the World Athletics Championships Oregon 22, competing over 1500m.
Lohalith's next international appearance will come at the World Athletics Cross Country Championships Bathurst 23, where she will compete with an ART quartet in the mixed relay.
Her appearance in Castellon was her first over a distance longer than 1500m, boding well for her planned transition to the 5000m and 10,000m events.
"After the World Championships in Oregon I came back to Kenya and I started to work harder towards my goal to succeed as a long distance runner,” Lohalith said.
“I am training hard all week – only training and sleeping. Even during Christmas, when all the athletes in the camp travelled back home, I stayed in the camp for training alone. I don't see my son and parents too often because I have a goal to improve further at the Olympics in Paris next year.”
Lohalith fled from her village in South Sudan at nine, settled in the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya in 2002 and later began taking part in running competitions at her high school in the camp. Coaches for the Tegla Loroupe Foundation spotted her talent and invited her to join a training camp in Ngong, just outside Nairobi. In 2016, she was one of 10 refugee athletes selected to compete at the Rio Olympic Games under the Refugee Team flag, a selection that set the course for her steady rise since.
Bob Ramsak for World Athletics