Refugee Olympic Team

Updated: Sep 15, 2021

The stamina and drive it takes to be an Olympian is something the 29 athletes on the Refugee Olympic Team have in spades.

At the Rio Olympics, where the refugee team debuted in 2016, 10 athletes competed under the Olympic flag. In Tokyo, the team has grown to 29 athletes.

The athletes on the small squad in Tokyo hailed from 11 different countries, from Afghanistan to Venezuela, and competed in a dozen different sports. Their stories are unique - some of them left their home countries on foot in search of refuge; others were exiled - but they're bound by their will to survive.

Their time in Tokyo marked the second Olympic Games for the Refugee Olympic Team, and they hope their Olympic status means something to the people of their home nations.

Jamal Mohammed, who fled to Israel from Sudan, placed 13th in the 5,000m race. But he was focused on more than medals when he was on the track. "I'm going to compete for 80 million people around the world who left their countries to go to find a better place for them and help them achieve their goals," he told CNN Sport. "It makes me so proud to represent these people and let them know anything is possible."

The Refugee Olympic Team is yet to win its first Olympic medal. Kimia Alizadeh, who previously competed for Iran, came the closest after winning her first three taekwondo fights in Tokyo. She then lost her next two, including the bronze medal fight. So close!

Looking forward to the next Olympics and beyond Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said: "It would be an incredible message of achievement, of hope in the future for millions and millions" of what a medal would mean for one of the team's athletes.