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Judo In Team Refugee

10 Refugees geared up ready to perform for the first time in Olympic competition in Rio 2016. The team was a first of its kind. The athletes were to be a symbol and hope for refugee's worldwide and brought attention to the enormous refugee crisis in the world currently. Of those ten athletes, two of them: Popole Misenga and Yolande Mabika, from the Democratic Republic of Congo were two judoka ready to perform.

Popole Misenga


Figure 1: Popole Misenga in Brazil.

Popole Misenga was displaced during the second Congo war; his mother was tragically killed when he was nine he was found a week later and taken to a home in Kinshasa. It was there at the center for displaced children where he decided to take up Judo. In 2010 he received a bronze medal in the African U20 championships. After World Judo Championships in Brazil 2013, he sought asylum in Brazil and remained in the country and started training in the country. He was selected to compete by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) into the Refugee Olympic Team. During the tournament, Misenga got eliminated one round from the quarter-finals. 

In an interview with CNN Misenga was quoted: "My life really changed after the Olympics, I have a good life now. I don't need to worry every day if I can feed my family. I've been supported by the IOC…" 

Misenga had set himself targets for the games which he accomplished some and missed out on others. He aimed to help raise awareness and profile of the world's 65 million refugees. He also hoped to be reunited with his family and to win a medal. The only thing he failed to do was earn a medal. Misenga showed real qualities of Judo principles using himself as an example for other refugees struggling in the same situation.

Yolande Mabika


Figure 2: Yolande Mabika in Brazil.

Yolande Mabika was also caught up in the second Congo war and was separated from her family and ended up in a children's home in Kinshasa. The government was advocating for orphans find a way to seek some structure through sport and she chose Judo. 

She also applied for asylum after the world championships in Brazil and competed in the Olympics as she was part of the team that made history. After her loss Mabika The Guardian "I'm representing many nations and my victory is a victory for all refugees in the world. I lost, but I'm here. The fight did not end today. The fight is not only judo; the fight is life." Powerful words that Jigoro Kano would have been proud to hear. Yolande showed true Judo principles by using her opportunity to speak out as a symbol for all refugees around the world.

Yolande and Popole escaped dire conditions they even claim to have been put in cages by their coaches when they'd lose and were subject to horrible treatment. But they stood brave and courageous when the world was watching and 

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