For decades, the Olympic Games have showcased the very best of the human spirit: Dedication, fairness, endurance and hope - it’s fair to say that this iconic annual event is viewed in both an aspirational and inspirational light.
Made up of athletes from South Sudan, Ethiopia, DRC and others, all team members have overcome seemingly insurmountable odds and challenges to compete on the international stage. Below, we share some of their stories.
ETHIOPIA – Yonas Kinde
Category: Athletics, Men’s marathon
36-year-old Yonas abandoned his home country of Ethiopia in 2011 due to political and economic strife. He now lives in Luxembourg where he has been granted international protection and makes a living as a taxi driver.
Though the talented runner has only been in his new continental home for a short time, he has already won several races in France, Germany and, of course, the tiny nation of Luxembourg. However, he has been unable to prove his sporting prowess in major international competitions due to lack of citizenship – until now.
Yonas is embracing the opportunity of a lifetime to compete in a unique Olympic team all of his own, and he is determined to give it his all.
SOUTH SUDAN – Paulo Amotun Loroko
Category: Athletics, Men’s 1 500m
Now living and thriving in Nairobi, Kenya, Paulo’s peaceful, rural life in South Sudan was perfect until civil war broke out in 2003.
The escalating and widespread violence drove his parents to flee to neighbouring Kenya, and Paulo found the courage to follow them in 2006.
Unlike many refugee stories, the athlete’s ends happily; he was eventually reunited with his mother at a Kenyan refugee camp and was able to attend school.
According to Paulo, qualifying for the 2016 Games has given him a chance to realise his greatest ambition: He says his dream is to break a record and win a gold medal.
DRC – Yolande Mabika
Category: Judo, Women’s 70kg
28-year-old Yolande originally hails from Bukavu, a city in Democratic Republic of Congo that saw some of the most intense fighting and social upheaval during the country’s civil war from 1998 to 2003. Separated from her parents while very young, the judoka remembers little of what happened, only that – to escape the violence – she was running alone in a forest when she was rescued by a helicopter that took her to safety in Kinshasa, the capital. While living in a centre for orphaned children, Yolande took up Judo, a sport the Congolese government advocated for displaced children to help them to find structure. She credits the discipline for giving her a “strong heart”, allowing her to heal the emotional pain of losing her family. In 2014, Yolande was granted refugee status by the Brazilian government, and now lives in Rio de Janeiro.