Tegla Loroupe, Refugee Olympic Team Chef de Mission in Rio, honoured by the UN
Kenya’s Tegla Loroupe, one of the greatest female long-distance runners in history, was recently honoured as the 2016 UN Person of the Year in Kenya, for her work in support of peace, women’s rights and education.
This distinction recognises her exemplary career, which includes her role as Chef de Mission of the IOC’s Refugee Olympic Team at the Olympic Games in Rio.
In Brazil, Tegla Loroupe was a guide and mentor for the 10 athletes of the first-ever Refugee Olympic Team created by the IOC. Having taken part in the Games three times herself, she accompanied them during their discovery of the Olympic world and throughout the competition.
“This Refugee Olympic Team gives hope to those who have experienced exile and refugee camps,” she declared in Rio. “These athletes unite us all together – they are a symbol not just for sport but for the whole world. The refugee issue is not a new one, it has happened before but this team gives us all an idea of our shared humanity.”This Refugee Olympic Team gives hope to those who have experienced exile and refugee camps.Tegla Loroupe Kenya
South Sudanese refugee and 800m runner Yiech Pur Biel praised the work Loroupe did for the refugees: “Tegla is our mother, not only our leader. Most of us run because of war. Madam Tegla gives us a chance for other people to know the history of our lives. And we can forget what happened before. We can celebrate. We can have hope, like everyone else.”
During her brilliant sports career, from the early 1990s to the mid-2000s, Tegla Loroupe won two World Championship bronze medals in the 10,000m (Gothenburg 1995 and Seville 1999); set world records (which still stand today) in the 20km (1:05:26.6), 25km (1:27:05.9) and 30km (1:45:50); was the first African woman to win the New York Marathon, in 1994 (then again in 1995 and 1998); won several other prestigious marathons (Rotterdam, London, Boston, Hong Kong, Berlin, Rome and Lausanne); and won three world half-marathon titles (1997, 1998 and 1999). Tegla Loroupe competed in the 10,000m and the marathon at the Games in Barcelona in 1992, Atlanta in 1996 and Sydney in 2000.
In 2003, the Olympian created the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation, before becoming a UN ambassador for sport in 2006. Through her foundation, she is actively involved in the Kakuma Refugee Camp in her country, where she organised the first Peace Race in 2014.
Loroupe also set up a training centre for refugee athletes in Ngong (part of Nairobi), and these included the five athletes from South Sudan who were on the Refugee Olympic Team in Rio last August.
The Kenyan is also behind the construction of schools for orphans affected by the conflicts in various African countries. All over East Africa, she organises races to promote dialogue and peace, which attract thousands of participants.