Noted Kenyan athlete Tegla Loroupe is chef de mission for the refugee team in Ashgabat 2017 ©Getty Images

A refugee team of five athletes is to take part in the 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games (AIMAG) in Ashgabat and will be led by Kenya's former world marathon record holder Tegla Loroupe. 

The team are all from South Sudan and will compete in the indoor athletics track events in Turkmenistan's capital. 

They will be the 66th delegation competing in the Games, joining the 65 from Asia and Oceania due to take part in 21 sports. 

Loroupe, the team's Chef de Mission, had also led the Refugee Olympic Team at Rio 2016 and will be joined in Ashgabat by two more officials and a coach.

The five athletes - Paulo Amotun Lokoro, entered in 1500 metres, Wiyual Puok Deng in 400m, Gai Yang Tap in 800m, Ukuk Uthoo Bul in 3,000m, and Yiech Pur Biel in 800m - were selected for Ashgabat 2017 after trials organised by the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation in Nairobi.

Lokoro and Biel competed at Rio 2016, while the other three will be competing at their first international event.

Rio 2016 saw the first refugee team take part, and since then they have competed at events in Cyprus, Bahamas, Uganda and Rwanda. 

Earlier this year, a team took part at the International Association of Athletics Federations World Championships in London.

"They are thrilled to get a chance to compete on an international stage," Loroupe, holder of the marathon world record between 1998 and 2001, said.

"There are few opportunities to compete, especially for refugees, so this is an exciting moment for them.

"We will bring some new athletes who did not compete before, so now they have the chance they have dreamed of. 

"It’s special for them to be able to show their talent and physical abilities on a bigger stage. 

"It means a lot. 

"The refugee team is a team for humanity, and is one all nations can cheer for."

Judoka Popole Misenga was the Refugee Olympic Team's most successful athlete at Rio 2016 ©Getty Images
Judoka Popole Misenga was the Refugee Olympic Team's most successful athlete at Rio 2016 ©Getty Images

The five athletes live and train alongside other trainee refugee athletes in Kenya, in facilities and residence funded by the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation and supported by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. 

"As we speak, I’m at the track with them here in Ngong, where they have been training with us at the foundation – we are doing some speed work, so they are well prepared," said Loroupe, a United Nations Ambassador for Sport

Loroupe is due to travel to Lima this week for the 130th International Olympic Committee as part of the Paris 2024 delegation. 

She is due to meet her refugee team in Ashgabat on Saturday (September 16).

"I’m especially looking forward to engaging with young athletes in Ashgabat, and to talk with women there about what sports can do for women," said Loroupe.

The Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) hymn will be adopted as the refugee team’s anthem and it will compete under the OCA flag.

Dayanch Gulgeldiyev, chairman of the AIMAG Executive Committee, claimed the refugee team will add a special element to Ashgabat 2017. 

"This team brings the spirit of Olympic solidarity," he said.

"We are delighted that a delegation of refugee athletes will take part at Ashgabat 2017, and we expect them to receive a big reception at the Opening Ceremony and throughout the competition."

"Last month, we saw once again the unifying power of a refugee team, at the World Athletics Championships in London."