Ashebir Woldegiorgis, the president of the Ethiopian Olympic Committee, told VOA Amharic that the call for Olympian Feyisa Lilesa to return is meant to better the country.
(VOA News)―After winning the silver medal in the men’s marathon at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Feyisa Lilesa spent two years in self-imposed exile in the United States. Now, he’s returning home.
Feyisa will return to Ethiopia in the coming weeks with his wife and children after two athletics groups notified him that he would receive a hero’s welcome upon arriving.
Ashebir Woldegiorgis, the president of the Ethiopian Olympic Committee, told VOA Amharic that the call for Feyisa to return is meant to better the country.
“He can teach his exemplary ways to other athletes and teach strength to our youngsters. That’s the main call, so he can come back to participate in the sport he loves and pass it on by running and by advising to elevate Ethiopia’s sport,” Ashebir said.
Olympian Feyisa Lilesa: Show of protest
Feyisa made international headlines when he raised his crossed wrists above his head at the finish line, and again on the podium, at the 2016 summer games.
The gesture showed his support for people protesting in the Oromia region of Ethiopia, raised international awareness of human rights concerns in Ethiopia and made Olympian Feyisa a target.
At the time, the country was heading into a state of emergency, and violent protests were spreading across Oromia, its largest region. Ethnic Oromos were speaking out against marginalization and oppression, and the gesture Feyisa used in Rio became a symbol of solidarity with protesters, many of whom were young students.
But the decorated athlete felt differently and, after the games in Rio, used a special-skill visa to come to the U.S., where he settled in Flagstaff, Arizona. He spent six months alone, before his wife, son and daughter joined him.
Continue reading this story at VOA News
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- I Would Have Regretted It for the Rest of My Life If I Didn’t Take Stand, Says Feyisa Lilesa
- Rio 2016: Eliud Kipchoge (KEN), Feyisa Lilesa (ETH) and Galen Rupp (USA) Win Men’s Marathon