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Kenya Hosts Refugee Olympic Athletes


Rose Nathike Lokonyen is a refugee from South Sudan living in Kenya. She is one of the 10 athletes who will be on the refugee Olympic team in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Rose Nathike Lokonyen is a refugee from South Sudan living in Kenya. She is one of the 10 athletes who will be on the refugee Olympic team in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.


When athletes from around the world march in the opening ceremony of the 2016 Olympic Games, one team will walk into the stadium without a country flag.

The team will be carrying the Olympic flag, instead.

They are the team of refugees.

The International Olympic Committee announced in March that it would sponsor the first-ever Olympic refugee team. It named 10 athletes to the team in June.

The athletes are from Syria, South Sudan, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. They will compete in the swimming, running and judo events at the Olympic Games, which start on August 5 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The IOC says it hopes the 10 athletes can be a “symbol of hope” for refugees worldwide, as well as a reminder of the refugee crisis.

Five of the refugee Olympic athletes are runners from South Sudan. They are training in Kenya.

Rose Nathike Lokonyen is one of the team members. She was just four years old when her family left South Sudan. Now, she is 23. She and her family lived at a refugee camp in Kenya for 16 years.

She says she was determined to participate in sports from young age. She remembers her father punishing her for playing soccer. She says he was “just looking after me.”

Lokonyen thinks about her family often. She had to leave her younger brothers at the refugee camp in order to train for the Olympics.

Lokonyen trains with the four other runners from South Sudan at a training center named after Tegla Loroupe, a famous Kenyan runner. She competed in the marathon and 10,000-meter races at many Olympics and world championships.

Lokonyen runs for about two hours each day to train for the Olympics. She will compete in the 800-meter race in Rio.

Jackson Kemboi is the manager of the training camp in Kenya. He says he is hopeful about the athletes’ chances in Rio. He describes them as “disciplined, and that is what’s needed most.”

A recent story from the New York Times called the runners from South Sudan “promising” but “untested in top competition.”

I’m Dan Friedell.

Lenny Ruvaga wrote this story for VOANews.com. Dan Friedell adapted it for Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

Will you follow the progress of the refugee Olympic team in Rio? We want to know. Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page.

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Words in This Story

sponsorn. a person or organization that pays the cost of an activity or event

judo – n. a sport developed in Japan in which opponents attempt to throw or wrestle each other to the ground

missv. to be without something

promisingadj. likely to succeed or to be good : full of promise

contendv. to compete with someone or for something

disciplinedadj. being able to do something by controlling your behavior

stadiumn. a very large usually roofless building that has a large open area surrounded by many rows of seats and that is used for sports events, concerts, etc.

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