Glasgow-based refugee makes Team GB

Tewolde
Tewolde and John

Eritrean runner Tsegai Tewelde, who lives in Glasgow, has secured a place in Britain’s Olympic team after his performance at the London Marathon yesterday.

The 26-year-old refugee, who is now a UK citizen, finished as the second fastest British runner in the marathon and will join other Scots runner Callum Hawkins in representing Britain at the Rio Olympics this summer.

Tsegai has built a new life in Glasgow after he was granted asylum in the UK, and has run for Scotland several times at an international level. He arrived in the country with the Eritrean squad in 2008 to compete in the world cross-country championships in Edinburgh’s Holyrood Park.

Tsegai was featured in Scottish Refugee Council’s 2014 Refugee Festival Scotland programme alongside Shettleston Harriers running coach John Mackay who took him on after being contacted by Scottish Refugee Council.

In his interview for the festival programme, Tsegai said: “I was a bit frightened when I first came to Glasgow. My English wasn’t so good and I didn’t know anyone. I’m also from a village and hadn’t lived in a city before so everything was new to me.

“John helped me learn English and invited me to get to know his family so I felt less alone. I had to build up my trust in people. Even though they were helping me it took a while to feel comfortable with people. It was very difficult leaving my own family behind. Now I feel proud to run for Scotland.”

John, who coaches at Shettleston Harriers Athletic Club in Glasgow’s East End, said: “Tsegai is a top international athlete. In a way I think of him as my son. I’m so proud of him and everything he has achieved. When Tsegai and the other Eritrean refugees arrived in Glasgow, everyone in the club pulled together to help make them feel welcome in Scotland.

“They arrived here with nothing but everyone in the club gave them something to get them started here. We also invited the Eritreans to our houses and family events so they could get to meet local Scottish people. We knew that it could be isolating living alone in the high flats and we wanted them to feel welcome here.”

Tsegai was welcomed by Glasgow’s athletics community with open arms. Now he will represent them – and his new country – on the world stage.

Refugee Festival Scotland 2016 takes place 14-26 June. The festival is an annual Scotland-wide programme of arts, cultural, educational, heritage and sports events. Coordinated by Scottish Refugee Council, the festival brings together people from refugee and local communities to celebrate the contributions refugees make to life in Scotland and the welcome offered by local people.