Meet Rose Lokonyen Nathike, Refugee Athlete Scholarship-holder and historic Olympic flagbearer

The Rio 2016 flagbearer for the IOC Refugee Olympic Team and IOC Refugee Athlete Scholarship-holder is now focused on being even better at the Tokyo 2020 Games in 2021.
By Sanjeev Palar

Rose Lokonyen Nathike, an IOC Refugee Athlete Scholarship-holder, made history at the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil when she was given the honour of being the flagbearer for the first-ever IOC Refugee Olympic Team.

The South Sudan born athlete is aiming to better her 7th place finish in the 800m at Rio at the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Games in 2021.

Like all athletes around the world, the 27-year-old has had to navigate the additional challenges caused by the global pandemic, but remains determined not to let circumstances bring her down. "Sport is everything to me" she shared with Olympic Channel and Tokyo2020.org, "It is my passion, it has given me hope."

"Never lose hope, keep on training. This pandemic has hit us hard, but it will end." - Rose Lokonyen Nathike

When she was barely 10 years old, Nathike and her family fled South Sudan on foot during the civil war, when local militias arrived in her village.

They made their way to the Kakuma refugee camp in northwest Kenya where she started running as a hobby. Nathike started participating in running competitions and in 2015 was selected to train at the Tegla Loroupe Refugee Training Centre in Ngong, just outside Kenya’s capital Nairobi.

Under the guidance of three-time Olympian Loroupe, Nathike honed her running skills and was selected to compete at the Olympic Games in Rio as part of the first-ever IOC Refugee Olympic Team.

Since then, she has also participated in the 2017 and 2019 IAAF World Championships as part of the World Athletics' refugee team, where she finished 8th and 7th respectively in her heats.

As a result of the lockdown last year, Nathike had to return to the Kakuma refugee camp, which houses nearly 200,000 refugees, after her training centre was ordered shut.

"This [Kakuma] is home for me, this is where my family is, so there is nowhere else to go." Nathike shared.

With her training grant, and those of the other 54 Refugee Athlete Scholarship-holders extended into 2021, Nathike is now focusing on the future to ensure that she will be at her best for the upcoming Games in Japan.

"My Olympic dreams stays. I am still training and keeping on. An athlete must always be prepared, be ready." - Rose Lokonyen Nathike