Refugee Eldric Sella Rodriguez makes Venezuela proud in defeat

The IOC Refugee Olympic Team boxer received an outpouring of love online after his first-round defeat at Tokyo 2020.

Picture by 2021 Getty Images

IOC Refugee Olympic Team boxer Eldric Sella Rodriguez may have lost his first-round match at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, but his compatriots are proud of him.

The Venezuelan-born fighter was stopped in the opening round by his experienced opponent, Euri Cedeno Martinez of the Dominican Republic on Monday (26 July).

Despite Rodriguez not wearing his nation’s colours, there was an outpouring of love from his compatriots online who felt proud that he had made it to the Olympics.

After economic collapse ravaged Venezuela in 2014, the boxer was dropped from the national team due to a lack of resources. He decided it was time to leave his country in search of greater opportunities.

After being invited to a boxing tournament in nearby Trinidad and Tobago in 2018, Rodriguez sought asylum and successfully applied for refugee status. Rodriguez’ father, who is also his trainer, joined him soon after.

With safety and stability now in place, the boxer could concentrate on making his dream come true when he wasn’t mixing concrete or painting houses for a living.

“There was not a day when I didn’t think of going to the Olympics,” he said.

In 2019, he won silver in the Trinidad and Tobago Boxing Association’s Boxing Championship. Soon after, he was awarded an IOC Refugee Athlete Scholarship, and eventually a place on the Tokyo 2020 IOC Refugee Olympic Team where he became its first Latin American member.

“I will have the opportunity to participate in the Olympic Games and represent not only me, but millions of people around the world who, like me, were forced to leave their home and dreams behind," he said at the time.

But Venezuela was never far from his heart, and he would eat the South American nation’s national dish of arepas every single day.

More than five million Venezuelans are currently living outside their country, and for them Rodriguez provides hope that they too can still fulfil their dreams.


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