The National Olympic Committee of Kenya has today flagged off two Refugee Scholarship Athletes from Kenya as they depart for World Cross Country Championships in Bathurst, Australia on 18th February.
The Kenyan-based athletes, 24-year-old Josephine Tain and 29-year-old Anjelina Nadai were invited by World Athletics to join the team of four based on their previous performances, the other athletes being from UK and France, to make the full Athlete Refugee Team.
Anjelina is fresh from winning an international competition and hopes to give a good show when she faces the best of the world in Bathurst. On 5th February, she became the first runner from both the World Athletics Athletes Refugee Team or IOC Refugee Team to win an International Competition at the European Champion Clubs Cross Country at the picturesque Oropesa del Mar, a historic town in Castellón, Spain.
Commenting during the flag-off event at NOC-K offices, Anjelina remarked, “Being coached by Kenya’s legend has given me the motivation to prove myself to the world and I feel ready especially after winning ten days ago. I competed in Rio 2016; I’ve been to the last two World Championships in Oregon and London and recently I was in Tokyo 2020. This cross country, I have a target, it’s setting me up for the 1500m and 5000m come Paris 2024. I want to prove to the world-anything is possible.”
Kenyan coaches have been given the charge by World Athletics to manage the team. Former 800m World Champion Janeth Jepkosgei is the Coach while 800m Commonwealth Gold Medalist Japheth Kimutai Butia is the Team Manager.
Speaking during the event, NOC-K Secretary-General, Francis Mutuku explained his excitement for flagging off the team of four from Kenya.
“We are excited that despite visa issues, Anjelina and Josephine will depart today at 3.00pm to Australia. As hosts of the Kenya Refugee Scholarship Athletes, we manage the athletes with support from the International Olympic Committee Solidarity Program to ensure the athletes prepare well for such championships with the main goal being to qualify to the Refugee Olympic Team Paris 2024.’
Currently, eight athletes (seven in athletics and one in taekwondo) are under the scholarship.
“We are happy to see our scholarship athletes compete at the highest level of competitions as they prepare for Paris 2024 and we can’t wait for the President Dr. Paul Tergat to welcome them in Bathurst as he cheers on two teams; Team Kenya and Kenya Refugee Team.”
Bernard Rono a United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) representative, thanked NOC-K for taking in refugee athletes under their wing and giving hope to all other refugees to dream and believe in their talent.
“We are proud of our partnership with NOC-K which has been fruitful and can sit back, and watch over a nice nyama choma on Saturday as the team performs to its best,” Rono said.
“As UNHCR, we value ourselves highly in support and protection of refugees, their education, and documentation including travel documentation.”
Janeth Jepkosgei is delighted in being given the role as the coach and promised a good performance at the 44th edition of the global showpiece.
“This is my second year in a row with refugee athletes and I can say, I am home. As a coach, I’ve prepared them well physically and mentally. It won’t feel any different watching Team Kenya perform well but currently; this is my home. I love the thrill of something new, so I’ll just say-watch this space.”
NOC-K President Dr. Paul Tergat is the World Ambassador for the 2023 World Cross Country Championships. Being one of the greats in the race and where his real success story began, he saw his first five individual World Cross Country crowns; Durham 1995–in Stellenbosch in 1996, Turin in 1997, Marrakech in 1998, and Belfast in 1999. This paved the way to a historic two world half marathon titles, two Olympic 10,000m silver medals, and three 10,000m medals – two silvers and a bronze – at the World Championships.