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Kenya: Refugees look forward to an Olympics dream

Kenya: Refugees look forward to an Olympics dream

Kenya

In Kenya’s Ngong Hills, about 40km southwest of the capital, Nairobi, the sound of running shoes can be heard loudly.

But they are not ordinary sounds; they are those of refugees who sprint around an athletics track in intensive training hoping they be selected for the Rio Olympics.

Hand-picked from Kenya’s vast refugee camps – including Dadaab, the biggest in the world, the athletes have their eyes set on racing when the games open in Rio de Janeiro in August.

For me I will feel so proud to be there and to be recognised as a South Sudanese because a South Sudanese has never been there but may be this year at least one of them can be able to represent.

Angelina Ndai, a 22-year-old South Sudanese is among the more than two million people forced to flee the world’s youngest nation, which has been in civil war for more than two years.

Among other wishes, the young athlete sees herself treading Tartan Olympic Stadium in Rio.

“For me I will feel so proud to be there and to be recognised as a South Sudanese because a South Sudanese has never been there but may be this year at least one of them can be able to represent.”

In March, the International Olympic Committee announced the creation and funding of Team Refugee Olympic Athletes to compete in Rio under its flag.

That is a huge opening for Ndai and colleagues.

Former Kenyan Olympic team coach John Anzrah is in charge of getting them ready for the games.

“They came in when they were raw, but now we have refined them, you have seen them run like the other athletes who are training here. The only difference is the others are elite and these ones are now following their footsteps.”

Mohammed Daud Abubakar from Somalia has been singled out as a sure hit in Brazil, adding he bears similar traits to the Somalian turned British record holder Mo Farrah.

“You know Mo is Somalian and I am Somalian also and I am very happy to be like him in the coming years and if it is possible, the one at Rio.”

Kenya’s Olympic chief and IOC board member, Kipchoge Keino, has however said the runners must have good qualifying times to be considered for the team.

“We might be seeing one of those kids coming up with a gold … the talent is there and everything is mentally and physically how you approach it,” he said.

“I think it is important for those refugees to take part and the country they belonged to will see that they had a talent they kicked out,” Keino said adding: “The refugee world will be saying, ‘We had a refugee representing us.’”

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