VENEZUELAN Eldric Sella has achieved his dream of qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics. However, Sella, who resides in Trinidad after seeking asylum in 2018, will not be representing his native country.
The 24-year-old is one of 29 refugee athletes, competing in 12 disciplines, on the second-ever refugee Olympic team.
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said their participation in Japan sends a powerful message of solidarity and hope to the world this summer, bringing further awareness to the plight of over 80 million displaced people worldwide.
“I am thrilled to congratulate each of the athletes who have been named in the Tokyo 2020 refugee Olympic team,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, who is also vice chairman of the Olympic Refuge Foundation (ORF).
“They are an exceptional group of people who inspire the world. UNHCR is incredibly proud to support them as they compete at the Tokyo Olympics. Surviving war, persecution and the anxiety of exile already makes them extraordinary people, but the fact that they now also excel as athletes on the world stage fills me with immense pride.
“It shows what is possible when refugees are given the opportunity to make the most of their potential...They serve as a reminder that everyone deserves the chance to succeed in life.”
Sella, who made the Venezuela national team as an 18-year-old, thought leaving his homeland was the end of his dream.
However, his fighting spirit helped him stay focused and hopeful.
“We are delighted to see Eldric’s passion, determination and hard work so wonderfully rewarded,” said Miriam Aertker, UNHCR’s Head of Office in TT. “As one of his unwavering supporters, we understand the immense challenges he has overcome to make his dreams come true. His perseverance and optimism in the face of all his obstacles are inspirational and we believe he will be a symbol of hope to all those who are forcibly displaced, especially the more than five million Venezuelans who have left their country.”
As part of its more than 25-year partnership with the IOC, UNHCR works with the IOC and the ORF to harness the power of sport to help create a world where every person forced to flee can build a better future. Together with the IOC, the ORF, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and other partners, UNHCR said it is leading the global call for a world in which all displaced people, including those with disabilities, can equally access and participate in sport.