Athletes from war-torn Somalia going for gold in Beijing Olympics

July 14, 2008

Samiyo Yusuf, a young woman in her early 20s, is training strenuously for the coming Beijing Olympics and has high hopes that she will bring success back to her home country, Somalia, as she is the only female athlete representing the war-torn nation.

In one of the dilapidated old sports stadiums in the Somali capital Mogadishu, Yusuf and her fellow runner, Abdinasir Saeed, as the only male athlete, both regularly train in preparation for the Olympics this year to represent Flag of Somalia.svg , the Horn of Africa nation that has been in chaos and lawlessness for the most part of the last two decades.

"We are hopeful that we will succeed in the events we will take part in Beijing," said Yusuf, who will run in the women's 400 meters and 800 meters.

Saeed said he will be participating in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters and expected to "raise" the name of his country which has been "synonymous for war, death and destruction".

"I know being the only male athlete representing a whole country carries huge responsibility and there are a lot expected of me and I will try to do my best to raise the name of my country," Saeed told Xinhua as he trained along with Samiya in Stadium Konis in the north of Mogadishu.

Somali Olympic Committee, better known by its Somali acronym GOS, has been trying their best to train and select the athletes representing Somalia in Beijing.

"For us being part of the Olympic spirit is more important than getting medals. But we are confident that these two young persons will better represent Somalia," Aden Haji Yebarow, GOS First Vice President, told Xinhua at his office in Mogadishu.

Yebarow said that the number of athletes representing Somalia is limited not by the ability of their athletes but by lack of funds.

"We are sending two athletes to take part in the Beijing Olympics and we are pinning our entire national hopes," said he.

Since its creation in 1959, Somalia Olympic Committee has been working to develop sports in Somalia despite the insecurity in the east African country for the past two decades which has destroyed much of the sports facilities.

The Chinese-built Mogadishu Olympic Village, the biggest national sports center in Somalia, has been turned into an army base by the Ethiopian troops in Somalia. The stadium has been in a state of disrepair for the nearly two decades of lawlessness in Somalia particularly in the restive Somalia capital.

"We have historic ties with China which has built a number of sports facilities in Somalia and have helped train many of our sports coaches and athletes," Wiish said.

"But those sports facilities are not being used in the interest of sports in Somalia and are being destroyed on a daily bases in Somalia."

Although sports in Somalia has been adversely effected by the continuing civil strife, GOS has managed to sent athletes to attend in the last few Olympic Games and has organized a number of national and regional sports events inside the country.

The old Italian-built Konis Stadium in the north of the Somalia capital is the only sports ground maintained by GOS and used by the few sports clubs that operate in Mogadishu.

However, the participation by the two athletes, Yusuf and Saeed, in next month's Beijing Olympics brings a ray of hope for many Somalia sports fans and continues Somalia's symbolic presence in the world sports stage.

"We are going for gold, no less," said Mohamud Addow, coach of the athletes.

Source: Xinhua
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