MEET THE FIRST EVER OLYMPIC REFUGEE TEAM

  Things Girls Do desk

As the Olympic Games open today, there's one team that we at Things Girls Do plan to be cheering for along with those from our home countries - the Refugee Olympic Team (ROT). The team is made up of ten athletes – including four women – from the countries of Syria, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Ethiopia. They represent millions of migrants escaping from war-torn countries.

At the Olympic welcoming committee on Thursday, 18 year-old Syrian Yusra Mardini spoke on behalf of the team, saying, “We want to thank everybody who is supporting us, who gave us the chance to be here, and follow our dreams again. To give us the hope that we still are humans. We are not only refugees – we are like everyone in the world."

 

Yusra Mardini, 18, Syria

Sport: Swimming, Event: 200-Metre Freestyle

 
 

When Yusra Mardini's boat began leaking on its way from Syria to Germany, Mardini and her sister got into the water and swam alongside it, guiding it to safety.

 

Rami Anis, 25, Syria

Sport: Swimming, Event: 100-Metre Butterfly

 
 

Rami Anis has been training since he was 14, but his status as a migrant has left him unable to swim in competitions until now.

 

Yolande Mabika, 28, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Sport: Judo, Event: Middleweight

 
 

Yolande Mabika learned judo growing up in a home for displaced children after being separated from her parents by fighting, and after years with an abusive coach, she was able to seek asylum in Brazil, where she lives and trains now.

 

Paulo Amotun Lokoro, 24, South Sudan

Sport: Athletics, Event: 1000 Metres

 
 

Forced to flee from South Sudan to Kenya, Paulo Amotun Lokoro began his career excelling at school sports while living in a refugee camp.

 

Yiech Pur Biel, 21, South Sudan

Sport: Athletics, Event: 800 Metres

 
 

Yiech Pur Biel began sports as part of a football [soccer] team, but ultimately chose running, citing his preference for the freedom and control it gives him.

 

Rose Nathike Lokonyen, 23, South Sudan

Sport: Athletics, Event: 800 Metres

 
 

Rose Nathike Lokonyen has only been training for about a year, discovering her aptitude for it after being encouraged by a teacher to run in a school race.

 

Popole Misenga, 24, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Sport: Judo, Event: Middleweight

 
 

Like Yolande Mabika, Popole Misenga was forced away from his family by fighting and learned judo under an abusive coach before receiving asylum in Brazil, where he and Mabika train at a school founded by former Olympian Flavio Canto.

 

Yonas Kinde, 36, Ethiopia

Sport: Athletics, Event: Marathon

 
 

After fleeing his home country, Yonas Kinde worked as a taxi driver in Luxembourg to support himself while he trained as a runner.

 

Anjelina Nadai Lohalith, 21, South Sudan

Sport: Athletics, Event: 1500 Metres

 
 

Chosen by pro coaches who visited her school while she was living in a refugee camp, Anjelina Nadai Lohalith sees the Olympics as a path to further races and a running career that will help her give her family a better life.

 

James Nyang Chiengjiek, 28, South Sudan

Sport: Athletics, Event:

 
 

At age thirteen, James Nyang Chiengjiek fled South Sudan so he wouldn't be forced into becoming a child soldier; he begin to get attention for his speed when he ran and won against older boys in his school.

 

The members of #TeamRefugee have all spoken about how they hope to use their stories and voices to inspire others, and to bring attention and positive change to their countries and peoples. We wish them all the best in Rio.