Olympics refugee team to make history

Misenga requested asylum in Brazil after competing for a Judo championship for Congo in 2013

RIO DE JANIERO (CNN) – The 2016 Olympic Games are about to make history. One team will be comprised entirely of refugees.

A shortlist of 43 athletes has been compiled and in the coming hours, the International Olympic Committee will name the official refugee team that will compete at the games in Rio.

Popole Misenga has reined in his brutal tactics, aiming for gold as part of the new refugee team, training in his adopted home, Brazil.

“My fight in the Olympics would be for all of the refugees, to give them faith in their dreams,” said Misenga.

However, it was a violent road that started in the democratic Republic of Congo. During the 5-year conflict that ended in 2003, more than 5 million people were killed and millions more left homeless. Misenga was separated from his family during the war, and to this day he doesn’t know if they survived. He says he was mistreated when he lost matches.

Misenga’s coach, Geraldo Bernardes, says his experience made him aggressive, “In Congo, they always had to win or they were punished in a cage.”

He came to Rio in 2013 to compete in the world judo championship for Congo. He stayed and requested asylum. A decision, he doesn’t regret, although he faces unexpected challenges.

“I thought I’d make a better life here and forget what was going on in my village, he says. But here, shots are fired every day,” said Misenga.

We visit Misenga in the working class neighborhood where he now lives with his Brazilian wife and toddler son. Misenga goes every day to go train, taking three different buses, two and a half hours. He doesn’t get home until around 11:30 at night. He shows us the hair salon where he slept on the floor when he first arrived. Until he met Fabiana. She says that the Olympics are about much more than competing for a medal.

“He needs this to because it could help him find his siblings,” Fabian says. “He hasn’t seen them since he was a kid.”

Misenga says he wants to bring them to his new home, to Brazil.

Is Brazil’s crime a threat to the Olympics?

Comments are closed.