Three refugee athletes from Kakuma refugee camp have taken part in the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Under 18 Athletics Championships, at the Kasarani Stadium in Nairobi, Kenya.
Sunday Kamisa and Lydia Mamun, both from South Sudan, and Mohamed Ahmed from Ethiopia, who all live in Kenya, competed in the 800, 400 and 1500 metres races respectively.
It was the first international competition for the three who formed the Athlete Refugee Team (ART) at the competition.
17 year old Sunday Kamisa who was born in Kakuma refugee camp in Northwest Kenya recorded her personal best time of 2:32:76.
“This was my first time to compete in a big event. I am not used to running on a carpet so it was not very easy but I am happy.”
Sunday hopes to be trained at a professional level and also participate in regional and international competitions. The IAAF U18s was a new experience for her.
For Lydia Mamun who lives in Dadaab, refugee camp in Northeast Kenya, the race was her second competitive outing.
She is one of the most promising upcoming refugee athletes.
“I will continue to train,” she said after her performance. “I am happy because I did my best.”
Mohamed Ahmed, who also recorded his personal best time of 4:23 at the World Under 18 Championships heats, fled from Ethiopia in 2009 and has been living in Kakuma refugee camp ever since.
He could not hide his joy about his performance. “I cannot believe this, I am proud of myself,” he said. “I have even defeated someone who is not a refugee and I recorded a personal best time.”
Mohammed says the competition is a big breakthrough for him.
He used to train alone in Kakuma refugee camp.
The three are among 26 other refugee athletes being trained at the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation (TLPF) training camp in Ngong, on the outskirts of Nairobi.
Their fellow athletes from the TLPF training camp came ready to cheer them on. Some athletes also got a chance to interact with participants from their countries of origin who are taking part in the Championships.
According to their coach, Christopher Biwott, “The athletes trained very well and such exposure is good for them so that they can prepare for even bigger competitions.”
And other opportunities to compete and develop their sport are ahead. The IAAF is supporting five refugees from the TLPF training camp to take part in the IAAF World Championships in London next month.