Coronavirus. Trapped in Japan: the african athletes who travelled to the Games, were left stranded and give a positive message

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The runner paralympic of South Sudan, 100 meters and 200 meters, Michael Machiek Ting Kutjang, participates in a training session in Maebashi. – The deferment of the Olympic Games for Tokyo 2020 was a hard blow for many athletes, but a team of sprinters of south Sudan and Source: AFP Credit: Philip FONG

MAEBASHI, Japan (AFP).- The

postponement of a year of the Tokyo Olympics

due to the pandemic of coronavirus, has not discouraged

a handful of athletes from South Sudan

who continue their training in Japan, almost as if nothing had happened.

“The postponement of the Tokyo Olympics, is not a problem”

says his coach Joseph Rensio Tobia Omirok, questioned by the agency AFP in Maebashi, a city two hours north of the japanese capital, where four of their athletes and found since last November. “I’m happy, because I can still train, while in other countries there is no training” and the athletes are confined due to the coronavirus, ” he explains. Their small team of runners (three men, including one paralympic, and a woman) continues his daily training in Maebashi.

This city of 340,000 inhabitants decided to continue to host their guests in africa. Have an athletics track in place, a luxury inaccessible in your country, as well as a small army of fitness coaches and volunteer interpreters. “We are eager to continue offering our support”, explained to AFP Shinichi Hagiwara, a responsible municipal de deportes in Maebashi.


The broker's paralympic 100 and 200 meters South Sudan, Michael Machiek Ting Kutjang, poses for a photo after an interview with AFP in Maebashi. - The deferment of the Olympic Games for Tokyo 2020 was a hard blow for many athletes, but a team of sprinters of south Sudan q
The broker’s paralympic 100 and 200 meters South Sudan, Michael Machiek Ting Kutjang, poses for a photo after an interview with AFP in Maebashi. – The deferment of the Olympic Games for Tokyo 2020 was a hard blow for many athletes, but a team of sprinters of south Sudan q Source: AFP Credit: Philip FONG

The city collected more than fourteen million yens (about 118.000 euros) in all of Japan, and continues raising funds to house the team until July, as scheduled before the deferral of the Olympic Games, decided at the end of march.

In front of a recent spike in cases of coronavirus in Japan, although very far away now from the levels seen in Europe and in the united States, Prime minister Shinzo Abe declared on Tuesday a state of emergency in seven prefectures of the country, including Tokyo and Osaka.

The inhabitants had been asked to stay home as much as possible during a month. Gunma prefecture, where is located the city of Maebashi, is not affected by the time of this measure.

Since his arrival in Japan, the sudsudaneses have visited schools and have trained children, have participated in events of local life and have learned some notions of japanese. The locals try to talk when they can to their guests of a country relatively unknown, one of the poorest on the planet, which became independent of Sudan in 2011 and comes just a devastating civil war. “Before coming to Japan, I knew nothing of the japanese” confides Abraham Majok Matet Guem, a specialist of 1,500 meters, 20 years.

“The love that I have received here, has gone beyond what I thought. Not strange so much to my country, because I am in a very cosy atmosphere, with people who are extremely friendly. That has surprised me a lot,” he adds.

Olympic dream intact

Athletes sudsudaneses they would like to return one day so much kindness to the people that I have welcomed. “For the moment, people are still afraid to come to South Sudan. But we think that in the near future, a country will be very peaceful and everyone will have the possibility to go there”, waiting for the athlete. “And we would be happy if we come also to people of Maebashi,” he adds. The corridor of mediofondo, with the that feature his mother and his seven brothers and sisters, who have remained in the country, to help them, continues to have great ambitions for the Tokyo Games, despite being deferred until 2021. “My dream remains to be olympic medalist (…). I’m going to continue to train and I want to one day be a champion. I have time,” he explains.


April 3, 2020. The runner paralympic of South Sudan, 100 meters and 200 meters, Michael Machiek Ting Kutjang (left) and the corridor of obstacles Joseph Akoon Akoon Akoon participate in a training session in Maebashi. The postponement of the Tokyo Olympics 2020 was a hard
April 3, 2020. The runner paralympic of South Sudan, 100 meters and 200 meters, Michael Machiek Ting Kutjang (left) and the corridor of obstacles Joseph Akoon Akoon Akoon participate in a training session in Maebashi. The postponement of the Tokyo Olympics 2020 was a hard Source: AFP Credit: Philip FONG

Beyond the month of July, the fate of the athletes sudsudaneses Maebashi will be determined by the municipality after consultation with the authority olympic of your country and of the japanese government, according to Hagiwara.

A first case of contamination coronavirus was recently announced by the authorities of South Sudan, whose borders and the international airport were closed

to try to protect the country, ill-equipped against the pandemic.

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