Former world marathon record holder Tegla Loroupe will lead a refugee team to the 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games(AIMAG) that will be held in Ashgabat , Turkmenistan from 17-27 September 2017.
Loroupe, the team’s Chef de Mission, had also led the Refugee Olympic Team at Rio 2016 will lead the South Sudan team as the 66th delegation competing in the Games, joining the 65 from Asia and Oceania due to take part in 21 sports.
Five athletes were selected after holding the trials at Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi and are led by Gai Yang Tap and Yiech Pur Biel both in 800m, Paulo Amotun Lokoro in 1500m, Wiyual Puok Deng in 400m and Ukuk Uthoo Bul in 3,000m.
Lokoro and Biel competed at Rio 2016, while the other three will be competing at their first international event.
Rio 2016 saw the first refugee team take part, and since then they have competed at events in Cyprus, Bahamas, Uganda and Rwanda.
Earlier this year, a team took part at the International Association of Athletics Federations World Championships in London.
“They are thrilled to get a chance to compete on an international stage,” Loroupe, holder of the marathon world record between 1998 and 2001, said.
“The refugee team is a team for humanity, and is one all nations can cheer for.”
The five athletes live and train alongside other trainee refugee athletes in Kenya, in facilities and residence funded by the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation and supported by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.
“As we speak, I’m at the track with them here in Ngong, where they have been training with us at the foundation – we are doing some speed work, so they are well prepared,” said Loroupe, a United Nations Ambassador for Sport
Loroupe is due to travel to Lima this week for the 130th International Olympic Committee as part of the Paris 2024 delegation.
She is due to meet her refugee team in Ashgabat on Saturday (September 16).
“I’m especially looking forward to engaging with young athletes in Ashgabat, and to talk with women there about what sports can do for women,” said Loroupe.
The Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) hymn will be adopted as the refugee team’s anthem and it will compete under the OCA flag.
Dayanch Gulgeldiyev, chairman of the AIMAG Executive Committee, claimed the refugee team will add a special element to Ashgabat 2017.
“This team brings the spirit of Olympic solidarity,” he said.
“We are delighted that a delegation of refugee athletes will take part at Ashgabat 2017, and we expect them to receive a big reception at the Opening Ceremony and throughout the competition.”
“Last month, we saw once again the unifying power of a refugee team, at the World Athletics Championships in London.”