Feature | Athletics

Introducing Yonas Kinde – IOC Refugee Athlete Scholarship-holder

In 2020, Yonas Kinde became the first refugee to compete in the Tokyo Marathon and hopes to return for the Olympics after being part of the Refugee Olympic Team at Rio 2016.

By Ed Knowles ·

Yonas Kinde competed in the marathon in 2016 as part of the first ever Refugee Olympic Team.

“The Refugee Olympic Team is a symbol of hope and our hope is still alive,” Yonas said to the Olympic Channel Podcast.

Originally from Ethiopia, he hasn’t seen his family in over a decade.

He is an IOC Refugee Athlete Scholarship-holder and is hoping to compete at Tokyo 2020.

Yonas Kinde: IOC Refugee Athlete Scholarship-holder

At the moment, the 40-year-old is living and training in Luxembourg.

The experience at Rio 2016 was unforgettable as he ran the 26.2 mile (42 kilometre) course in Brazil.

“Every kilometre, very second was very special for me.

“I was thinking of the children who are suffering around the world.”

The dream is still there and the dream has not changed - Yonas Kinde on competing at Tokyo 2020

Men's Marathon | Rio 2016 Replay

Gold: Eliud Kipchoge (KEN), Silver: Feyisa Lilesa (ETH), Bronze: Galen Rupp...

Yonas Kinde: 'The dream is still there'

Yonas also became the first refugee in the history of the Tokyo Marathon to compete at an elite level.

He completed the course in 2020 just before the global coronavirus pandemic paused international competitions.

“I dreamed about running in Tokyo since I was a child. This is mainly a flat course, which allows athletes to have good results. It is one of the greatest road races in the world,” Yonas explained to the UNHCR.

“But most importantly, this is the city where my great idol, the Ethiopian runner Abebe Bikila, successfully defended his Olympic title in 1964.”

Despite the difficulties, he wants to return to Japan and compete at the Olympics.

“The dream is still there and the dream has not changed.”