•An agreement between the foundation and Olympics Kenya allows refugee athletes to participate in Olympics Kenya programs
•Three-time world half marathon champion Tegla Loroupe thanks Team Kenya for embracing refugee athletes as family by training together
•Loroupe will be the chef-de-mission for the Refugee Olympics Athletes team at Tokyo Olympics
Three-time world half marathon champion Tegla Loroupe has praised the government, Athletics Kenya and Olympics Kenya for supporting the preparations of refugee Olympic athletes ahead of the Tokyo Olympics in July.
She said the decision to allow the refugees to train with Kenyan athletes to the Tokyo Olympics bodes well for the training and eventual performances of the athletes, who are hosted by the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation in Ngong.
"We have one of ours competing in taekwondo who is currently training with the Kenyan counterparts in Kasarani. So I'd say we are very lucky to have an Olympic committee that looks beyond the welfare of the Kenyans. Not forgetting the government, which has treated these refugees as another one of their babies and providing them equal treatment," Loroupe said.
An agreement between the foundation and Olympics Kenya allows the athletes to participate in the latter's programs, including vaccination, qualification events, capacity building, and career transition.
Loroupe said the athletes are determined to take the global stage by storm in Tokyo in what will be the team's second appearance at the Olympics after their debut in Rio in 2016.
She also hailed International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach as a key cog in the successful integration of refugees in the Olympics.
"Before he became president, he knew the work I had been doing with conflict-stricken communities. He promised he would make refugees' participation at the Olympics a reality and for sure the first place he visited after the election as president was Eldoret. He once again reiterated his promise and followed through on it," the two-time New York City Marathon champion said.
Loroupe was speaking during a visit by Olympics Kenya top officials — led by president Paul Tergat — to her foundation's headquarters in Ngong.
She described Tergat's visit as a huge motivation for the athletes many of who draws inspiration from the president's exploits in athletics.
"For him to work closely with our foundation is quite a privilege because he also sits in the IOC committee. He is a role model who encourages many of the athletes here. For them to see him transition into leadership is enough motivation that athletics can lead them to greater things," she said.
Loroupe will once again be the chef-de-mission for the refugee team in Tokyo, assisted by Stephen Pattison from the UNHCR.
The 32-athlete team includes refugees from South Sudan, Somalia, and Congo DRC as well as some reformed warriors from Kenyan communities
"I am like a mother to these athletes and entrusted with giving them whatever they need for their preparations."