Ethiopia’s Olympic delegation has returned without the marathon silver medalist Feyisa Lilesa.
His decision not to return home follows claims that his life was in danger after he made a hand gesture in support of his Oromo people when he crossed the finish line for the marathon last Sunday in Rio.
Marathoner Feyisa Lilesa chose to remain in Brazil rather than return to Ethiopia with the rest of his team. https://t.co/2ZVr8nrij2— New York Times World (@nytimesworld) August 24, 2016
Ethiopian authorities had assured the runner that he would not be punished for his action, but the Olympic silver medalist is said to be seeking political asylum in the United States.
Ethiopia says Olympic runner Feyisa Lilesa will get hero's welcome despite defiance https://t.co/Aq7baHPCHj— TIME.com (@TIME) August 22, 2016
The US State Department though has declined to comment on the matter, reports the AFP news agency.
One of the coaches of the Ethiopia team, Hussein Shibo told the AFP: “I do not know if the Olympic committee will withdraw Feyisa Lilesa’s medal. It depends on the rules and regulations of the Olympics. All I know is that he received the gold medal for his performance. That’s all I can say.”
Crowdfunding campaign for Olympics 'hero' Feyisa Lilesa passes $100Khttps://t.co/BtBWDYG7EJ— Mashable (@mashable) August 23, 2016
Meanwhile, the other athletes including the country’s sole gold medalist at the Olympics, Almaz Ayana, were met on arrival by state officials who gave them a warm welcome.
Ayana who won gold in the 10,000m, with a new world record of 29:17.45 said she was pleased with her performance.
“This is my first time of participating in the Olympics and I brought home a gold medal. I am very happy with my performance,” she said.
Ethiopian swimmer Robel Kiros who became an internet sensation after finishing last in his 100m freestyle heat said he would not give up swimming.
“I am an Ethiopian champion, swimming is my life,” he said. “I wanted to be a swimmer and I will continue to swim. I do not know when I’ll stop, I continue to swim.”
Ethiopia, known to be a dominant force in long distance races at the Olympics, failed to win gold medals for their races apart from Ayana’s 10,000m gold.
The country ended up with a total of 8 medals at the Rio games, of which only one was gold. This falls short of the 3 gold medals they won at the 2012 games in London. Their overall medal haul though was one more than their 2012 haul of 7 medals.