Tegla Loroupe, Chef de Mission for the 10-strong Refugee Olympic Team that will make a historic first appearance at the Rio Olympics, wants to extend the training system that has produced the team’s five track athletes for another five years to offer other talented refugees the opportunity to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Games.
Volker Wagner - the German coach who guided Loroupe to marathon wins in London, New York and Berlin - has directed the training camp at Ngong, near Nairobi, which has produced the five South Sudanese athletes picked for Rio from a group of more than 30 refugees who were spotted during trials held by the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation in the Kakuma refugee camp in north-west Kenya.
Shortly before the athletes left Kenya for Rio this week, he told insidethegames: "Tegla and I, we want this project to continue for five more years at least.
“In the Tokyo Olympics in four years’ time, maybe we can have some experienced runners.
“By that time we can have special people who are able to run and who need to run well to qualify - this is our aim.
“We believe we can produce world class runners who are able to qualify for Tokyo 2020 by their own power.
He added: “We want to continue with this project to give hope to other refugees.
“We have 67 million refugees in the world, and we don’t know how many have died on the way.
“We have so many people suffering - these people were not born to be refugees, they are intelligent individuals.
“When they are in the camps, what is their future? Nothing.
“This project is an idea which brings some of them back to the world, using sport.
“So the project continues, and we want to prepare those left in the camp for other competitions.
“They are almost the same quality as the five who have been selected.
“Maybe they can run in the African Games, or in the Diamond League, or try for next year’s World Championships.
“Because all this training makes no sense unless it is aimed at some kind of competition.
“This is something that still has to be settled.
“When the Rio Games are over we have to analyse what has to be done better for the benefit of all, and that will be a challenge.
“We have to look to see what money from supporting companies has not been realised in time - because we have had some delays.
“Also, some people were selected for training through politics - people in the Kakuma camp said ‘I want my relatives and friends to go’, even though they were not runners.
“The selection has to be done in a better way so we have better people to train.
“Next time we may well have to fulfil qualification times - we can’t always rely on the IOC to ensure competition entry.”
Wagner - who went back to Germany last week - described how a final period of preparation with the Kenyan Olympic team at Eldoret almost did for the prospects of the whole group.
“They joined the Kenyan squad training in Eldoret for almost two weeks and they have been running over the limits,” he said.
“It’s the first time they have met world class runners and they were so motivated they wanted to follow them.
Our 1500m runner, Paul Amotun Lokoro, was trying to keep up with Asbel Kiprop, and Yiech Pur Biel, who is doing the 800m, was following David Rudisha.
“They all tried to run too hard.
"It took four days to fix everything, but they are now fine.
"This is all good experience for them."
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