A South Sudanese Olympian who took part in the Rio 2016 Olympics as a member of the Refugee Olympic team was reconnected with his mother, 11 years after being separated from his family, The UN Refugee Agency reports.
Yiech Pur Biel, an 800m specialist, grew up in a refugee camp in Kenya after he was separated from his family while fleeing his home country in 2005 after violence broke out.
Participating in the sporting showpiece led to a series of surprising events, resulting in him receiving a call from his mother, who he had not seen in more than a decade.
“I didn’t know if she was alive or dead. She didn’t know if I was alive or dead, in fact she thought I was gone. It was really something amazing, even today I can’t believe it,” Biel was quoted as saying.
Biel woke up one morning in his room at the Olympic village in Rio de Janeiro and received a call from his mother, who had been alerted to the whereabouts of her son by a neighbour who had read about his sporting achievements.
Biel was among five South Sudanese runners who made history as part of the 10-member refugee team who said that the Olympics served as a life-changing experience.
For the first time ever, since the modern Olympics began in 1896, a team of refugees competed. The team included two Syrian swimmers, two judokas from the Democratic Republic of Congo, a marathon runner from Ethiopia and five middle-distance runners, including Biel from South Sudan.
“Their participation in the Olympics is a tribute to the courage and perseverance of all refugees in overcoming adversity and building a better future for themselves and their families. UNHCR stands with them and with all refugees”, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said.
The initiative came at a time when more than 59. 5 million people were being forced to flee their homes to escape violence and persecution.
CNN reported that five of the Olympic Refugee Team received a heroes welcome on their return to the Kakuma Refugee camp in Kenya where they grew up.
The UNHCR confirmed that the five athletes would spend a week with family friends in the camp before returning to their training base in Nairobi.