Refugee athlete calls for focus ahead of 2021 Tokyo Games - The Statesman

Refugee athlete calls for focus ahead of 2021 Tokyo Games

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Tokyo Olympics 2020. (File Photo: IANS)

Paulo Amotun Lokoro, a member of the Olympic Refugee Team, has warned his group of athletes not to engage in football or volleyball activities while in camp in Kakuma to avoid picking up injuries.

Lokoro, who made his debut at the Rio Olympics, is hopeful that his runners will overcome their self-imposed curfew at Kakuma Refugee camp in northern Kenya and return to competition with their preparations for the Olympics having stopped earlier than expected after the Games was pushed to 2021, reports Xinhua news agency.

“Everything was about preparing for the Olympics, but now they are postponed. It is good in a way because it gives more time to improve. Now I must try to prepare for next year. For me, I hope I can be in Tokyo then,” Lokoro said on Wednesday from the camp.


However, he warned his colleagues, not to stop training or start playing other sports.

“We have told them not to do things like playing football in the camp in case they injure themselves. So now they just do light training, they don’t let their fitness disappear,” said Lokoro, a 1,500m runner who escaped from war-torn South Sudan and has been camping in Nairobi at the Tegla Loroupe Foundation.

“We are refugees, we don’t cry. We have to stay positive. We have to wait for our moment.”

Loroupe, who was the Chief de Mission of the Olympic Refugee Team for the 2016 Rio Games, is hopeful her team will overcome their challenges and prove they deserve a spot on the high table.

“They are focused,” Loroupe said. “They live together, train together, eat together and go to school together. Not even the coronavirus will break this spirit of togetherness. They will overcome.”

With the International Olympic Committee (IOC) having suspended the Tokyo Games to 2021, Lokoro said they will use the time to polish up their skills so as to showcase better performance when they return to the stage after their debut in Rio in 2016.

Lokoro, originally a cattle farmer in southern Sudan, competed over 1,500m at the Rio 2016 Olympics as part of the Refugee Olympic Team, composed of athletes who had been forced to quit their native countries because of violence and conflict.

With the support of World Athletics, the Athlete Refugee Team has since fielded squads at the World Relays, the World Athletics Championships of 2017 and 2019, the World Half Marathon Championships of 2018 and the World Cross Country Championships of 2019.

But despite returning to where his journey to the Olympic Games started, the Kakuma Refugee camp, Lokoro said he is in constant communication with Loroupe.

The dreaded virus has infected over 20,00, 000 people worldwide while it has also claimed over 1,30,000 lives globally.

There is still no sure shot treatment of the infection and social-distancing, self-isolation and maintenance of hand-hygiene remain the only potent weapons to protect oneself from being infected.

As far as the situation in India is concerned, close to 12,000 people are infected with the virus in the country while over 350 have lost their lives.

(With inputs from IANS)