Two Special Groups in Rio: Refugees and Jesuit-Educated Athletes

BY ISN STAFFAugust 5, 2016

Refugees and Jesuit-educated athletes are two special groups that will begin competition this weekend in Brazil as the 2016 Olympic Games begin with the opening ceremonies tonight.

Refugee Athletes to Compete Under Olympic Flag

211px-2016_Summer_Olympics_logo.svgTen refugee athletes will act as a symbol of hope for refugees worldwide and bring global attention to the magnitude of the refugee crisis when they take part in the Olympic Games Rio 2016 this summer. The athletes will compete for the Refugee Olympic Team (ROT) – the first of its kind – and march with the Olympic flag immediately before host nation Brazil at the Opening Ceremony. The athletes were named to the ROT today by the Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee.

The refugee athletes are:

  • Rami Anis (M): Syria; sport – swimming
  • Yiech Pur Biel (M): South Sudan; sport –track, 800m
  • James Nyang Chiengjiek (M): South Sudan; sport –track, 400m
  • Yonas Kinde (M): Ethiopia; sport – athletics, marathon
  • Anjelina Nada Lohalith (F): South Sudan; sport – track, 1500m
  • Rose Nathike Lokonyen (F): South Sudan; sport –track, 800m
  • Paulo Amotun Lokoro (M): South Sudan; sport –track, 1500m
  • Yolande Bukasa Mabika (F): Democratic Republic of the Congo; sport – judo, -70kg
  • Yusra Mardini (F): Syria; sport – swimming
  • Popole Misenga (M): Democratic Republic of the Congo; sport – judo, -90kg

Unveiling the composition of the team, IOC President Thomas Bach said: “These refugees have no home, no team, no flag, no national anthem. We will offer them a home in the Olympic Village together with all the athletes of the word. The Olympic anthem will be played in their honour and the Olympic flag will lead them into the Olympic Stadium. This will be a symbol of hope for all the refugees in our world, and will make the world better aware of the magnitude of this crisis. It is also a signal to the international community that refugees are our fellow human beings and are an enrichment to society. These refugee athletes will show the world that despite the unimaginable tragedies that they have faced, anyone can contribute to society through their talent, skills and strength of the human spirit.”

The IOC had already been working with a number of United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to help refugees around the world. For the last 20 years, the IOC and UNHCR in particular have been using sport to support healing and development among young refugees in many camps and settlements around the world. They have consequently seen thousands of refugees benefit from sports programmes and equipment donated by the IOC.

Jesuit-Educated Athletes Competing in Brazil

Jesuit-educated athletes from a wide array of Jesuit colleges and universities as well as high schools across the U.S. will also compete and coach on the court, in the pool, and on the field.

Santa Clara University alumna Julie Johnston (‘14) will continue the University’s proud tradition of women’s soccer by playing for the U.S. women’s soccer team

Georgetown University alumna Emily Infeld (’12) will compete on the U.S. women’s track and field team. She was recently profiled in The Washington Post for her perseverance after battling injuries throughout her career. From Loyola Marymount University, alumnus Reid Priddy (’00) will compete on the U.S. men’s volleyball team; head women’s volleyball coach Tom Black will serve as assistant coach for the U.S. women’s volleyball team; and former assistant coach Katelyn Snyder will compete in women’s rowing. Priddy will be joined by former Loyola University Chicago men’s volleyball player, Thomas Jaeschke.


Joe Maloy (Boston College ’08, ‘G10) will compete for Team USA the Triathlon [PHOTO SOURCE: JOETRIATHLON.COM]

This year, Boston College has three alumni competing in the Olympics: Joe Maloy (‘08, ‘10) in the triathlon; Briana Provancha (‘12) in sailing; and Annie Haeger (‘12) in sailing. Both Provancha and Haeger will compete in the same event: women’s 470 class sailing.

Rounding out Team USA, former Marquette University men’s basketball standout Jimmy Butler (now playing for the Chicago Bulls) will play on the U.S. men’s basketball team. And one of the breakout stars of the 2012 Olympics returns to compete in 2016: Missy Franklin, a graduate of Regis Jesuit High School in Denver, will represent Team USA in women’s swimming. Franklin will be joined by fellow Regis grad Clark Smith, who will compete in men’s swimming.

Several former student-athletes will compete or coach for their native countries in basketball. For the past two years, Domantas Sabonis starred as a forward for Gonzaga University’s men’s basketball team. Before he begins his professional career with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Sabonis will follow in the footsteps of his father, legendary basketball player Arvydas Sabonis, and play for the Lithuanian men’s basketball team.

Creighton University alumnus Gregory Echenique (‘13) will become only the second Creighton basketball player to compete in the Olympics; he will play for the Venezuelan men’s basketball team, a team that is also making only its second appearance in a Summer Olympics. Saint Louis University alumnus Kevin Lisch (’09) will be only the third Saint Louis basketball player to compete in the Olympics, when he plays for the Australian men’s basketball team. (Saint Louis has another Olympic connection this year, having hosted the U.S. men’s gymnastics trials at the Chaifetz Arena on campus.)

Saint Joseph’s University alumnus John Bryant (’05) will serve as an assistant coach with the Nigerian men’s basketball team; while at Saint Joe’s, Bryant was part of the 2004 NCAA Elite 8 men’s basketball team.

[Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, Olympic Games]

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