Somalia Sends First Non-Runner to Tokyo Olympics

Mogadishu, Somalia — Somalia is sending two athletes to compete at the Tokyo Olympics, and they include the country's first non-runner -- female boxer Ramla Ali.

The Somali Olympic team officially departed for the Tokyo Games on Friday, after President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo bid them farewell.

The head of state and senior sport officials urged the team to compete successfully while proudly flying the Somali flag.

Middle-distance runner Ali Idow will compete in the 800-meter race following two years of intense training with professional athletes such as Mo Farah of Britain and Ayanle Suleiman of Djibouti in the Ethiopian highlands.

Idow will join the first Somali Olympic boxer, Ramla Ali, who has trained in London and is already in Tokyo.

Mohamed Abdow Hajji, the head of the Somali Olympics committee, says he is happy to see Ali qualify. He says the committee is attempting to train other athletes outside long-distance running, which is so popular in Horn of Africa nations.

He says sending a middle-distance runner and boxer to the 2020 Tokyo Games is a first step toward sending more athletes in various categories to future Olympic Games.

Sports minister Hamza Saed Hamza says the government is working to upgrade Somalia's athletic facilities, such as stadiums for training, to help improve athletes' results.

Somalia has never won an Olympic medal in any sport. Idow and Ali hope to make the country proud in the Games that kick off July 23.

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