Kenyan long-distance track and road runner Tegla Loroupe would like to see some of her refugee runners climb the podium at least by the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
Loroupe, who shot into fame after winning back-to-back New York Marathons in 1994 and 1995, has been a quiet and unassuming spokesperson for peace, women’s rights and education following her retirement from competition in 2007.
In 2006, she was named a United Nations Ambassador of Sport by then Secretary General Kofi Annan along with tennis legend Roger Federer and Australian Paralympian gold medallist Katrina Webb. An international sports ambassador for the IAAF and Unicef, Loroupe’s most recent contribution to her sport came last year when she organised a specialised Refugee Team of ten athletes from four countries at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
“But my dream would be to see one of my athletes win a medal, maybe at the next Olympic Games in Tokyo,” Loropue told Gulf News on the sidelines of the Seventh Dubai Women’s Run.
“These [the refugees] are normal people like us. It is not their fault that they are refugees. It is the situation that has turned them in refugees, and it is our right and duty to support them and guide them towards a normal life,” she added.
A winner at several other marathons including London, Boston, Rotterdam, Berlin, Hong Kong and Rome, Loroupe is a member of the ‘Champions for Peace’ club — a group of 54 famous elite athletes committed to serving peace in the world through sport — created by the Monaco-based organisation Peace and Sport.
Loroupe, now 40, is a near full-timer at the Kakuma and Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya. Earlier this year, she managed to get special permission for a four-member refugee team at the Fifth Asian Indoor and Martial Games held in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan. “One of them reached the final and came seventh place in the 1,500 metres for women while the other three made it to the semi-finals in their events. This in itself is such a huge result for us considering that these athletes have been through the worst,” Loropue remarked.
“Our target is the next Olympic Games and we will work hard to ensure we make our presence felt,” Loroupe promised.