Olympic refugee team resonates with immigrants in Canada

August 4, 2016

By Jamie Strashin, CBC Sports

Mandela Kuet knows the power of sports. He has lived and witnessed it first-hand.

Kuet was 12 when his family escaped war-ravaged Sudan and came to Winnipeg in 1998. He says it was sports that made him feel welcome in Canada.

“That was one of the best things that helped me integrate. It helped me make friends,” Kuet recalls. “It taught me a lot about discipline, playing on a team, learning the language. It was a great experience.”

Kuet never forgot. Today he works for the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba (IRCOM), where he has coached basketball for the past three years. He has watched countless refugees thrive in Canada with the help of sports.

Kuet’s deep connection to refugees and sports will have him focused on Rio over the next few weeks.

Different kind of team

Since the modern Olympics began in 1896, more than 200 countries have sent athletes to compete for medals at the Summer and Winter Games. In Rio, there will be a different kind of team.

Last month, the International Olympic Committee announced the selection of the first-ever refugee Olympic squad. The 10 athletes — six men and four women — hail from war-torn countries like Syria, Congo and South Sudan. They’ll compete in track and field, swimming and judo, and will march at the opening ceremony and compete under the Olympic flag.

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