Yonas Kinde, a refugee athlete has been chosen as an elite runner for the Tokyo Marathon. According to the UNHCR This will be the first time that a refugee has been selected to run for the elites in the history of the event. Kinde will be partaking in the event which is set to go ahead on 1 March 2020.

To achieve the status of an elite category runner, participants, including those from foreign countries, must meet specific requirements which are set down by the Japan Association of Athletics Federations. Kinde was awarded the elite status following an assessment by Japan for UNHCR, a NPO and a partner of the UN refugee Agency.

During the 2016 Olympic games held in Rio, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) put together, for the first time ever, the Refugee Olympic Team, for which Kinde was a member of. Kinde is now continuing his training as an IOC Refugee athlete Scholarship holder, and will be taking part in the Tokyo Marathon to secure his place in the IOC Refugee Olympic Team for Tokyo 2020. The IOC Refugee Olympic Team for Tokyo 2020 will be announced in June.

Born in 1980 Ethiopia, Kinde started his running career as a teenager, falling in love with the sport and competing in cross country, and working his way up to half marathons and eventually full marathons. Due to political issues, Kinde left Ethiopia and began to live in Luxembourg in 2012. He has been under international protection in Luxembourg since 2013, where he works as a taxi driver and takes French lessons, all whilst pushing his training further and further. Following his move to Luxembourg, Kinde came under coach Yves Göldi, and has won several titles in Luxembourg, France and Germany. He hit his personal best in 2015 at Frankfurt, Germany where he ran a marathon in 2 hours and 17 minutes. It was announced in July of 2016, that Kinde would be competing in the men’s marathon at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as a member of the Refugee Olympics Athletes team. Kinde ran the 2016 Summer Olympic marathon in 2 hours 24 minutes and 8 seconds.

With a deep admiration of fellow Ethiopian, and former Tokyo 1964 Olympic gold medalist Abebe Bikila, Kinde says it has been his dream to follow in his heros footsteps and to run in Tokyo. “I am delighted to be able to run in Tokyo, where Abebe, my inspiration, achieved so much”, Kinde says. “My message is that, if supported, refugees can unlock great potential.” The participation of the Refugee Olympic team during the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics gave hope and courage to millions of people who have fled their homes due to conflict or persecution.

The Tokyo Marathon 2020 is set to be held from 9am on Sunday the 1st of March 2020. The event will see participants of male, female, wheelchair male and wheelchair female athletes as well as runners of a 10km race for the categories of junior & Youth, persons with disability, with transplant surgery and wheelchair male and female.

Despite the good news regarding the refugee’s participation in the race, the event is being held during a dark period, as more than 1,000 runners from China have been asked to defer their entry into the Tokyo Marathon 2020 following the outbreak of the Coronavirus. The virus, which started in Wuhan, China currently has more than 50,000 cases and has caused over 1,500 deaths since its discovery. The Tokyo Marathon Foundation who organise the event have said that the entry fee for the Tokyo Marathon will not be refunded to runners who reside in China, but will guarantee their place in the event of 2021.

By - Connie Sceaphierde.