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IJF Refugee team can expect all support in Brasilia

6 Oct 2019 09:35

 Mark Pickering - IJF

Two Brazil-based members of the IJF Refugee Team will grace the Grand Slam in Brasilia in their adopted homeland this week. Rio 2016 Olympians Popole Misenga (U90kg) and Yolande Mabika Bukasa (U70kg) have been at the forefront of the movement since the IOC initiative was introduce for South America’s first Olympics and have benefited from the IJF’s new system of introducing a refugee team to the IJF World Judo Tour.

Both judoka are coached by the legendary Geraldo Bernardes at the Instituto Reação in Rio de Janeiro which was founded by Flavio Canto.

Misenga, who fought in both the individual and team event at the 2019 World Championships, and his teammate Bukasa both hail from the Democratic Republic of Congo and were given refugee status by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the build-up to Rio 2016.

Bernardes, 76, who cultivated the talents of Olympic champion and former world champion Rafaela Silva, reflected on the latest chapter in his illustrious coaching career.

 “I was coach of the Brazilian team for 20 years participating in 4 Olympics,” said the world-renowned coach.

“My involvement with the refugee team is a mission and thank god for the opportunities and success I had as a coach in the Brazilian team.”

“I do work to improve Physical / Technical participating in international competitions with the support of the International Judo Federation so they can gain more experience.”

The most experienced coach in the competition this weekend also revealed how Popole and Yolanda have been preparing for the Brasilia Grand Slam.

“They have done two physical and technical training sessions on a daily basis. In the morning it’s physical training and at night technical training.

“In this technical training they do with the Instituto Reação athletes including Brazilian national team judoka who have a lot of experience.

They also participate in some steps of the Brazilian judo domestic calendar and have joined the CBJ training at the Team Brasil dojo.”

Luiz Fernando Godinho, spokesman for UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency, said: “Popole and Yolande’s stories are a remarkable reminder that being a refugee should not stop anyone from following their dreams. As children, they had to flee violence, lost contact with their families and grew up in a refugee camp. Despite all this, they found their way to judo and became black belts and great competitors.

“First as part of the IOC Refugee Olympic Team at Rio 2016, and now as candidates for Tokyo 2020, they are a symbol of hope for all refugees in the world. It is with great honour and pride that UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, supports these athletes and many others to access equal opportunities and thrive, not just survive.”

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Related judoka and events

Related Judo Photos

  • Popole Misenga (ROT) - World Team Championships Tokyo (2019, JPN) - © IJF Emanuele Di Feliciantonio, International Judo Federation
  • Popole Misenga (ROT) - © taken from video
  • Yolande Bukasa (ROT) - © IJF Media Team, International Judo Federation

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