Photo Credit: MARTIN BUREAU/
Canada Offering Residency To 3 African Athletes From The Refugee Olympic Team
The Tokyo Olympics are over, and now it is time for most athletes to go back to their home countries and return to their routine. But for three South Sudanese-born athletes, going back to their homeland is not possible. Representing the Refugee Olympic team, Paulo Amotun Lokoro, Nathike Lokonyen and James Nyang Chiengjiek have not only acquired world-class athlete status, but have been offered the opportunity to safely settle in Canada, where they earned a scholarship to study at Sheridan College, Ontario.
They are the first cohort of students in a new athletic stream of the Student Refugee Program, in which post-secondary institutions privately sponsor refugees.
Leaving their home country for fear of persecution during the civil war, the three athletes fled South Sudan when they were young. They were sent to Kenya’s Kakuma refugee camp, which is home to 160,000 refugees from South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Ethiopia, and Uganda.
While speaking to the UNHCR in 2016, Nyang Chiengjiek explained: “That’s when I realized I could make it as a runner, and if God gives you a talent, you have to use it.”
Despite facing adversities in the refugee camp, it was there that the three athletes began running and were discovered by Tegla Lorupe, a Kenyan world championship medalist in the 10,000 m, who runs a foundation aimed at providing opportunities through sport for disenfranchised youth in Northeast Kenya.
She was hired to find athletes after International Olympic Committee (IOC) President, Thomas Bach announced the creation of a Refugee Olympic team at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro. It was a partnership between the United Nations’ refugee agency (UNHCR) and IOC.
Lokoro competed in 1,500 m, and Lokonyen and Chiengjiek took part in 800 m. According to UNHCR, these three athletes will obtain permanent resident status in Ontario. In the future, they may acquire Canadian citizenship in the case of good academic and athletic performance.
Despite not winning any medals in Tokyo Olympics, Paulo Amotun Lokoro, Nathike Lokonyen and James Nyang Chiengjiek can be considered champions for overcoming their life obstacles with joy and perseverance.