Athlete Akoon Akoon dreams of putting South Sudan on the world map

Joseph Akoon Akoon while racing in Argentina during the 2018 Buenos Aires

Youth Olympic Games (Photo Courtesy of IOC)

Compiled by David Mono Danga

South Sudan’s runner, Joseph Akoon Akoon is one of the three athletes who represented the country in the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Argentina last year.

Akoon expressed excitement having qualified to participate in the event although he did not win the 800m race. Tears streamed down Akoon Akoon’s face as he left the track having finished last.

“The clock marked 1:54:54 when he crossed the finish line, which meant that the South Sudanese athlete was almost four seconds behind the race leader. He is one of only three athletes from South Sudan who compete at Buenos Aires 2018 and given the challenges he has training back home, he has already won a battle just by getting to the competition,” The International Olympic Committee had reported.

Few months later, Joseph Akoon was chosen to represent South Sudan in the just concluded Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa (ANOCA) Zone V games in Huye, Rwanda.

He was one of the three athletes who put the country’s name on the map in having earned South Sudan’s first medal in the ZONE V Games.

Hundreds of citizens had given them a heroic welcome for lifting South Sudan Team to finished 7th on the table in the 2019 ANOCA Zone V Youth Games in Huye, Rwanda, collecting a total of 4 medals, Gold and Silver in Basketball, silver in Taekwondo and a bronze in athletics.

Nimra Talata’s basketball star, Mazim Nadir was given the overall best shooter award having led his country to the finals of the Basketball. He received a Gold medal and the team received Silver in the discipline.

In the Taekwondo discipline, Flora Aluel earned a Silver medal after finishing second to the well-built French sides.

South Sudan has been independent from Sudan since 2011, but the ongoing political and economic difficulties mean there are few opportunities for athletes to get the training and experience they need to become champions let alone financial difficulties facing the country’s Olympic committees and its line federations.

“I train a lot, but it’s not enough,” Akoon said. “I have a person who accompanies me, but I do not have a place to stay and the sports equipment that you see here. Everything is excellent here. I’m still amazed by the technological equipment and the modern training track,” he said.

Akoon qualified for the 2018 Youth Olympic Games through a national competition in which he came first, but competing against athletes from around the world at Buenos Aires 2018 puts him at the back of the pack.

“If you do not train well, you cannot compete with the athletes who do,” he said.

The young runner started to train in athletics fairly recently.

“My first try was four years ago at school. This is where competitions are held, then you move into the national team and that’s how I started. This sport is the second most popular in South Sudan after football,” he said.

In addition to his hardships with training back home, Akoon said he is struggling to adapt to the different climate in Argentina.

“The climate here is much colder than in South Sudan. At home it is a lot hotter. I suffer a lot, even yesterday and the day before yesterday it was very cool,” he said.

The part of the story from the 2018 Youth Olympics was extracted from the South Sudan National Olympic Committee (SSNOC) website, originally published under the tittle: South Sudan’s runner dreams of putting his country on the map



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