'I never lose hope': Refugee runner Lohalith revs up for Tokyo

·2-min read

By Jackson Njehia

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Anjelina Nadai Lohalith, a 26-year-old refugee from South Sudan, pounds around a running track outside Nairobi, trying to shave seconds off her time in the build-up to her appearance at the Tokyo Olympics.

There are no national emblems on her training gear - she will not be running for South Sudan, the country of her birth that she fled in 2002, nor for Kenya, the country that took her in.

She will be one of a 29-strong team of refugee athletes competing under the Olympic flag, with other members from as far afield as Syria, Eritrea, Afghanistan and Iran.

Lohalith used to dream of getting on a plane and seeing the world. "Then I realised, oh, I have a talent that can take me far."

Her particular talent is the 1,500 metres. "If I could just run under (four minutes) 30 ... it would be a big achievement."

That may not be a medal-winning time, but it would still be a huge win, given the obstacles she has faced. Her training was thrown into chaos a year ago when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

As Kenya's government imposed restrictions, she had to leave the training centre in Ngong and head hundreds of miles northwest to her old home in Kakuma refugee camp.

Lohalith and other refugee athletes have only recently been able to return to the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation training centre.

"The shape that we were (in), it went down. ... In the refugee camp, most of the time it is challenging. It is not a good place (where) you can train," she said.

Her training took a hit but she never gave up. The pandemic "is not something that (just) happened to me only ... I never lose hope because I know there (is) something ahead of me."

(Writing by Omar Mohammed; Editing by George Obulutsa and Andrew Heavens)

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