Jubilant refugee athletes pledge to take Rio chance

NGONG, Kenya, June 3 (Reuters) - Five Kenyan-based athletes from South Sudan who were named in the first Olympic refugee team on Friday have pledged to use this year's Rio Games to showcase the talents of refugees.

They danced and hugged after watching a live stream of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) news conference announcing the team at their training camp in Ngong, a small hamlet 20km south of the east African nation’s capital Nairobi.

“This is the chance to show the world that refugees can live, work and enjoy their talent like other human beings,” team captain James Nyak told reporters.

The refugee athletes are being trained by Kenya marathon great Tegla Loroupe, Africa's first New York marathon winner.

“I am happy and thank the IOC for giving us a chance. I want to appeal to my sisters and brothers back home not to lose hope but use their talent for their benefit. I will work hard to perform well to show that refugees can also equal other athletes in performance,” said 800 metres runner Rose Nathike Lokonyen.

Twenty-eight athletes were originally named in the refugee team but the list was trimmed down to 12 whose names were sent to Lausanne for the IOC to make the final selection. The athletes were from Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia.

The IOC has worked with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in camps and resettlement areas around the world since 1994. “The UNHCR has long recognised the positive impact of sport when refugees are rebuilding their lives in a new country," it said in a statement.

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

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