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IOC announces squad for athletes displaced by war & politics

Reporter: Damion Jones 丨 CCTV.com

06-05-2016 16:04 BJT

One of the biggest announcements made at last week's Executive Board Meeting of the International Olympic Committee -- was the selection of a Refugee Team for the upcoming Rio Games. This will mark the first time the IOC allows athletes displaced by war or politics to compete as a unit, and many of those chosen hope their participation helps keep the world focused on the situations in their countries.

Yusra Mardini's years of training as a swimmer have proven handy in real life, but not in a way she had ever envisioned. That's because the future Olympian was forced into the hazardous open sea during her family's journey to Europe as they fled war-ravaged Syria, a striking memory that she recalls vividly.

"Me and my sister were in the water, and actually before my sister told me `if something happens, don't help anyone,` and then she gets in the water and she helped them. And it was quite hard just to think that you're a swimmer and in the end you're going to end up dying in the water who you know the best," Yusra Mardini said.

And as she prepares to compete at the Rio Summer Games as a member of the first-ever Olympic Refugee Team, Mardini already knows she will be overcome with emotion at the Opening Ceremony.

"I think I will think about my family and my coach, my friends and everyone who helped me actually, and I will think how proud I am of what did I did -- and that I even tried to go back -- because you know, a lot of sportspeople, they didn't do that," Yusra Mardini said.

Also competing in Brazil will be Rose Nathike Lokonyen, who has literally been trying to outrun strife for many years, as rebels continue to fight the government of the world's newest nation -- her native South Sudan.

"I love running and it is my career. I love running and I started when I was in high school. That's when I was participating in schools, and then I've become someone now, yeah," Rose Nathike said.

And even though Lokonyen won't be waving the flag of her conflict-crossed country, she believes participating in the Olympics with the Refugee Team can help provide a message of hope and inspiration.

"I will be very happy to hold that flag of refugees, because this is where I started my life and also where I saw other people and maybe make them also to come together," Rose Nathike said.

The Olympic Refugee Team set to march into Maracana Stadium on the first day of the Rio Summer Games includes five members from South Sudan, two from Syria, two from the DRC, and one from Ethiopia. The individual competitors will participate in three different sports -- track and field, swimming, and judo.

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