Meet long-distance runner Dominic Lobalu, chasing Olympics 2024 dreams without a passport

Dominic Lobalu, an exceptional long-distance runner, has his sights set on ultimate glory at the Olympic Games. However, there’s a major hurdle in his path – he currently lacks national representation, rendering him unable to compete in the upcoming world championships and potentially the Paris Olympics in 2024.

Born in war-torn South Sudan, Lobalu faced immense hardships as a young orphan before finding refuge in northern Kenya. Despite his remarkable talent, his stateless status leaves him running without a flag or national colours on the global athletics stage.

Lobalu, who does not represent any country at present, now calls the beautiful city of St. Gallen in Switzerland his home, having resided there since 2019. Under the guidance of coach Markus Hagmann, he trains diligently, keeping his dream of competing at the Olympics alive.

“My goal has always been to compete in the Olympics, to show others from similar backgrounds that anything is possible,” CNN quoted the 23-year-old athlete.

To fulfil his dream, Lobalu is seeking eligibility to compete for Switzerland. Swiss Athletics has submitted an application to the World Athletics Nationality Review Panel, emphasising Lobalu’s deserving achievements and the values of the sport.

Having discovered his talent relatively late, Lobalu transitioned from football to athletics at the age of 16. Identified by the Athlete Refugee Team (ART), he trained diligently and showcased immense potential.

However, Lobalu made a life-changing decision while competing in Geneva, Switzerland. After winning a 10-kilometre race, he impulsively left the ART, venturing out on his own without any concrete plans or possessions. Since then, Lobalu hasn’t contemplated returning to Kenya.

“When I finished the race, I made up my mind. I knew I wouldn’t go back,” CNN quoted Lobalu as saying. While he remains coy about his reasons for leaving, it was a personal decision he felt compelled to explore.

Amid his uncertain journey, Lobalu remains hopeful that his pursuit of eligibility for Switzerland will soon come to fruition, allowing him to compete on the international stage and continue chasing his Olympic dreams against all odds.

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Updated: 22 Jun 2023, 02:54 PM IST

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