Olympic Refugee Team Aiming for the First-Ever Medal

The Olympic Refugee Team will participate in the Tokyo Olympic Games this year. It’s going to be the second Olympics for the team made up of athletes who had to flee their native countries for reasons like war, poverty, or discrimination.

In Tokyo, the team will compete under the Olympic flag and will enter the stadium second (after Greece). The Olympic Refugee Team will have 29 members competing in 12 different sports, trying to win the first medal since the team was established. However, the chances of that happening seem very slim.

Online sportsbooks like Millionaires Gaming, which you can read about in this MG Sports Betting site review, don’t think this team is going to do much in Japan this summer. In fact, none of the 29 members of the Olympic Refugee Team is favoured to win a medal.

Who are the Olympic Refugee Team Members?

This summer, 29 athletes from 11 different countries will be a part of the Olympic Refugee Team. Among those are ten African athletes, originally from seven different countries in Africa.

Those countries are, namely: Syria, Congo, South Sudan, Sudan, Eritrea, DR Congo, and Cameroon. The remaining 19 athletes hail from four countries outside Africa: Venezuela, Iran, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

Most of those 29 athletes are newcomers to the Olympics, although there are some who were a part of the inaugural Olympic Refugee Team in the 2016 Rio Olympics. Actually, six of the ten athletes that represented this team five years ago are still on the roster.

Probably the most famous of those is Syrian refugee Yusra Mardini, who will represent the Refugee Team in swimming (100m butterfly) for the second time. Mardini took part in the 2016 Olympics, less than a year after she made the headlines for swimming for three hours in the Aegean Sea, pushing a boat full of immigrants.  

In 2021, the Olympic Refugee Team will have another Syrian swimmer. The man in question is Alaa Maso, who will represent this team in the 50m freestyle.

The most successful athlete of the 2021 roster is Kimia Alizadeh, who will be making her debut in the Olympic Refugee Team. Still, this isn’t going to be her debut at the Olympics. A taekwondo practitioner currently living in Germany, Alizadeh already owns an Olympic medal. She won it five years ago while competing under the banner of Iran.

She won the bronze medal that year and is one of the potential candidates for grabbing another one, although the competition seems to be much harder now than five years ago. Dina Pouryounes is another taekwondo athlete with Iranian heritage who will also represent the refugee team in Tokyo. The third and final member of the taekwondo squad is Abdullah Sediqi who fled Afghanistan a few years ago.

In addition to swimming and taekwondo, the Olympic Refugee Team will also have its representatives in ten other sports, namely:

  • Athletics – Dorian Keletela (Congo), Rose Lokonyen (South Sudan), James Chiengjiek (South Sudan), Anjelina Lohalith (South Sudan), Paulo Amotun Lokoro (South Sudan), Jamal Abdelmaji Eisa Mohammed (Sudan), and Tachlowini Gabriyesos (Eritrea).
  • Badminton – Aram Mahmud (Syria)
  • Boxing – Wessam Salamana (Syria) and Eldric Sella Ropdriguez (Venezuela)
  • Canoeing – Saeid Fazloula (Iran)
  • Road Cycling – Masomah Ali Zada (Afghanistan) and Ahmad Wais (Syria)
  • Judo – Sanda Aldass (Syria), Ahmad Alikaj (Syria), Muna Dahouk (Syria), Javad Mahjoub (Iran), Popole Misenga (DR Congo), and Nigara Shaheen (Afghanistan)
  • Karate – Wael Shueb (Syria) and Hamoon Derafshipour (Iran)
  • Shooting – Luna Solomon (Eritrea)
  • Weightlifting – Cyrille Fagat Tchatchet II (Cameroon)
  • Wrestling – Aker Al-Obaidi (Iraq)

World Getting Together to Support the Olympic Refugee Team

The Olympic Refugee Team was picked from a pool of 56 athletes who had to flee their homes. They were awarded scholarships to train for the Olympic Games in their new countries, with more than $2 million dollars going their way over the course of the past five years.

The organization that stands behind this project is the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), together with many other non-profits from all around the world.

Filippo Grandi of the UNHCR was the one to announce that the Olympic Refugee Team is going to take part in the Tokyo Olympics. Grandi expressed his view that this team embodies the hopes and aspirations of all the people in the world, adding that these athletes show that everything is possible when people are given the chance to reach their full potential. 

According to the official data from the UN, there are almost 27 million refugees on the planet today. About half of those are under the age of 18.

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