Bengaluru, September 12: Close on the heels of their maiden participation at the 2016 Rio Olympics, a refugee team of five athletes will compete in the indoor athletics track events of the 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games to be held in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan from September 17 to 27.
The International Olympic Committee has been working for years to bring sport to refugee camps around the world and they provide the funds to make that happen.
The delegation's Chef de Mission is Kenya's legendary marathon runner Tegla Loroupe, who will be joined by two more officials and a coach.
The five athletes - Paulo Amotun Lokoro (entered in 1,500M), Wiyual Puok Deng (400M), Gai Yang Tap (800M), Ukuk Uthoo Bul (3,000M), and Yiech Pur Biel (800M) - were selected for Ashgabat 2017 after trials organised by the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation in Nairobi.
All are refugees from South Sudan and they will be one of the 65 delegations participating in the biggest ever multi-sport event to be staged in Central Asia.
Of the five, Lokoro and Biel competed at the Rio Games, while the other three will be competing at their first international event.
As a United Nations Ambassador for Sport and Peace, Loroupe is leading the way in finding opportunities for refugees to participate in international sporting events.
Speaking from Kenya this week, Loroupe said how proud she is to lead the five at Ashgabat 2017.
"They are thrilled to get a chance to compete on an international stage," said Loroupe, who held the marathon world record between 1998 and 2001. "There are few opportunities to compete, especially for refugees, so this is an exciting moment for them."