IOC to name first ever Olympic refugee team

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The 2016 Olympic Games are about to make history as one team will be comprised entirely of refugees. (WLS)

The 2016 Olympic Games are about to make history as one team will be comprised entirely of refugees.

A shortlist of 43 athletes has been compiled and the International Olympic Committee will name the official refugee team in short order.

Popole Misenga, a judo wrestler or judoka, has reined in his brutal tactics, aiming for gold as part of the new refugee team training in his adopted home of Brazil.

"My fight in the Olympics would be for all of the refugees, to give them faith in their dreams," Misenga says.

But it was a violent road that started in the Democratic Republic of Congo. During the five year conflict that ended in 2003, more than 5 million people were killed and millions more left homeless. Misenga was separated from his family during the war and to this day he doesn't know if they survived.

He says he was mistreated when he lost matches. Misenga's coach says his experience made him aggressive.

"In Congo, they always had to win or they were punished in a cage," Geraldo Bernardes, former Brazil Olympic coach, says.

He came to Rio in 2013 to compete in the World Judo Championship for Congo. He stayed and requested asylum, a decision he doesn't regret although he faces unexpected challenges.

"I thought I'd make a better life here and forget what was going on in my village. But here, shots are fired every day," he says.

Misenga now lives in a working class neighborhood with his Brazilian wife and toddler son.

Every day, Misenga takes three different buses for three and a half hours to go to training. He doesn't get home until around 11:30 p.m. He slept on the floor of a hair salon when he first arrived in Brazil, until he met Fabiana. She says the Olympics are about much more than competing for a medal.

"He needs this too because it could help him find his siblings," she says. "He hasn't seen them since he was a kid."

Misenga says he wants to bring them to his new home, to Brazil.

Related Topics:
sportsOlympicsrefugeesu.s. & world

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