11 Years Ago He Fled Sudan; Now He Is Running in the Olympics
At age 10, Yiech Pur Biel trekked alone from Sudan to Kenya, leaving his parents behind.
Today, 21-year-old Yiech Pur Biel is getting ready to compete in the 800m at the Rio Olympic Games 2016 as part of the first-ever team made of refugee athletes. But 11 years ago, he was forced to flee his war-torn home.
In 2005, Biel, then just 10 years old, fled from his hometown, Nasir, in Sudan, to escape the violence of civil war. All alone, he made his way to the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya.
“In the refugee camp, we have no facilities – even shoes we don’t have. There is no gym. Even the weather does not favour training because from morning until evening it is sunny and hot,” Biel said.
But Biel made Kakuma, which is slated to be closed due to Kenya’s national security interests, his home for 10 years, despite the lack of facilities and infrastructure. He started playing football with the other refugees, but soon tired of the sport because it made him rely too much on his teammates.
Instead, he grew interested in running, and started practicing track at the camp. Running gave Biel not just greater control over his own destiny, but also a sense of belonging.
For Biel, running was a passion, and he didn’t participate in competitive events until last year, when he found out that the Tegla Loroupe Foundation, founded by the Kenyan Olympian, was holding athletic trials in Kakuma. After participating in the trial, Biel was selected to join the Foundation.
Since then, Biel has been training under Tegla Loroupe herself. He trains in Nairobi along with four other South Sudanese runners selected to be a part of the Olympic refugee team for this year’s Olympics to be held in Rio.
“Even if I don’t get gold or silver, I will show the world that, as a refugee, you can do something,” Biel said.
A life of trials and tribulations has ensured that Biel stays motivated toward achieving his goals. Apart from becoming an ambassador for refugees everywhere, he wants to focus on his country, South Sudan. He believes that the future of his country is in the hands of its youth, who don’t want to repeat past mistakes. Biel, who hasn’t seen his parents ever since he left his country in 2005, also wants to provide his parents with a better life than the one they are currently living.
After the Olympics, Biel wants to continue training, but he also wants to earn a college degree.
Overcoming their lives of hardship to participate in one of the world’s biggest sporting events, Yiech Pur Biel and the entire Olympics refugee team serves as inspiration to global citizens everywhere to never lose hope, and to try as hard as we can to achieve our goals.
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