Kenya’s two-time Olympic marathon champion Eliud Kipchoge is to mentor the U20 World Athletics Athlete Refugee Team (ART), using his great experience in the sport to educate and inspire upcoming athletes.
Kipchoge will motivate the team members by sharing his knowledge and discipline in the sport, while also encouraging them to pursue their education and read books, which is one of his own passions. Committed to helping the underprivileged, the former world record-holder will also share life skills as part of the role, which he will hold through to next year’s World Athletics U20 Championships Lima 24.
Confirmation of Kipchoge’s mentorship, which will begin in January, coincides with the announcement of the Multistakeholder Pledge on Sport for Inclusion and Protection of Refugees, a commitment signed by more than 100 organisations represented at the Global Refugee Forum 2023, which gets under way today (13) in Geneva. As one of the signatories, and as part of the Sport for Refugee Coalition which it joined earlier this year, World Athletics reaffirmed its commitment to use sport to help improve the lives of stateless people around the world.
Held every four years, the Global Refugee Forum is the world’s largest international gathering on refugees. It is designed to support the practical implementation of the objectives set out in the Global Compact on Refugees: ease pressures on host countries, enhance refugee self-reliance, increase access to third-country solutions and improve conditions in countries of origin.
World Athletics’ pledge outlines the role that sport can play in improving the lives of refugees, including through sport programming, policy change, skill development, and communication and advocacy efforts.
The World Athletics Athlete Refugee Team, composed of athletes who have fled violence, conflict and injustice at home, was founded in 2016 and has since evolved into the world’s only year-round full-time refugee team programme. The team made its first competitive appearance as part of the Refugee Olympic Team at the 2016 Olympic Games and has competed at nearly every World Athletics Series event since.
The U20 team was formed as a pilot in 2022, with the objective of presenting a well-prepared U20 ART for the World Athletics U20 Championships Lima 24.
Kenya’s 2007 world 800m champion Janeth Jepkosgei is head coach of the U20 ART, which is partly based at Kakuma Refugee Camp, located around 100km from the South Sudan border in east Africa, and Kapsabet, Kenya. Swiss educator Barbara Moser-Mercer leads the programme, supported by coach Arcade Arakaza, himself a refugee from Burundi, and now Kipchoge.
Earlier this month, World Athletics was part of a delegation including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Olympic Refugee Foundation (ORF), National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOCK) and African Higher Education in Emergencies Network (AHEEN) that visited the Kakuma and Kalobeyei refugee camps in Kenya. World Athletics was invited to be part of the delegation by the ORF, recognising the work that World Athletics is doing in this domain.
Global Refugee Forum pledge: Sport for Inclusion and Protection of Refugees
“In its capacity as world governing body of athletics, World Athletics pledges to mobilise its sphere of influence to support the inclusion of refugee athletes in athletics events around the globe. We commit to providing them safe sport, promoting gender parity in our selection, educating them on safeguarding and offering academic and sport scholarships. Through our sponsor, Asics, they will benefit from our value in kind kit provision and will be eligible like any other athlete to win prize money.
“Together with our stakeholders, we will pursue and advocate for more World Athletics certified refugee coaches and support staff. We will offer media training courses for refugee athletes. In collaboration with the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU), we will be diligent on the wellbeing of refugee athletes under our programme and advocate running clean in the spirit of fair play.
“During our World Athletics Series (WAS) events, refugee athletes will be treated like their fellow elite athletes, and we will maximise their presence by offering them ambassadorial opportunities to promote the sport and share its impact on their lives. All expenses to our World Athletics Series events will be covered by World Athletics.
“World Athletics will serve as the team’s member federation, and the team will compete under the Athlete Refugee Team flag.”