Athlete Refugee Dominic Lokinyomo: ‘I want to be the first refugee to get a medal’

Dominic Lokinyomo in Asaba
Dominic Lokinyomo in Asaba

Dominic Lokinyomo was eight when his family fled the violence of Sudan’s civil war, and not yet nine when they were separated. To help dull the pain of that separation, he took up sport and began to run.

That early passion eventually landed him at the UNHCR KENYA-sponsored Tegla Loroupe Training Camp for Athlete Refugees in Ngong, Kenya, where less than three years later, the now 20-year-old has already shown that he just may have the drive, talent and determination necessary to reach the next difficult stage of his blossoming career. He’s certainly got the resilience. From my feature for the IAAF:

Chukudum is a small, remote village wedged in a valley between ranges of the Didinga Hills in the southeastern corner of South Sudan, about 25 kilometres from where its border meets those of Kenya and Uganda. It’s said that those rugged mountains, whose jagged peaks stab the sky at nearly 2000m, are often shrouded in clouds and mist, lending an ethereal, dreamy quality to the village’s southern reaches.

It was in this relatively isolated setting that Lokinyomo, who was born in 1998, spent the first eight years of his life, seven of those during the final years of the Second Sudanese Civil War, a conflict that raged on for nearly 22 years. It was one of the longest civil wars on record and left the region in tatters. That conflict eventually split Africa’s largest country in two with the creation of South Sudan in 2011.

But peace was fleeting. Two years later came the start of the South Sudanese Civil War and with it another massive humanitarian crisis. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the wars have collectively forced more than 2.2 million South Sudanese to flee to neighbouring countries and left another 2.1 million internally displaced. At the moment, South Sudan sits third among countries from which refugees are fleeing, behind Syria and Afghanistan.

During that first conflict, Lokinyomo’s family found itself among those faceless millions. They fled their village after their home was raided by soldiers but were soon separated. Lokinyomo wound up in an orphanage for a time – he doesn’t remember exactly how long – until mid 2007 when, with the help of an Italian NGO, he eventually made it across the border to Kenya and settled in Juja, a town of 40,000 about 30 kilometres north of Nairobi.

It was there, at age nine, that he eventually returned to school and, to help pass the time and ease the pain of separation from his family, took up sport.

“I believe in sport to better myself,” he says. “I want to do better.”

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