Liberia’s Olympic team may be small, but they made their mark at the opening

By Tracey Holmes in Tokyo

When the track and field competition gets underway today, there’ll be three athletes strutting their stuff that you probably won’t recognise, but you’ll want to know who they are.

A chance introduction of a friend of a friend suddenly saw Liberian-American handbag designer, Telfar Clemens, agree to outfit the team, making them one of the stars of the opening ceremony.

He’s thought of everything, including designer face masks. For the first time, they also have their own media reporting from the Games.

One of the smallest teams at the Tokyo Games is Liberia. They’ve been competing regularly since the Melbourne Olympics in 1956 with little support or fanfare.

A chance introduction of a friend of a friend suddenly saw Liberian-American handbag designer, Telfar Clemens, agree to outfit the team, making them one of the stars of the opening ceremony.

He’s thought of everything, including designer face masks. For the first time, they also have their own media reporting from the Games.

Janelle Addy is the co-founder of Go Team Liberia, a blog that became a website dedicated to Liberian Olympians after she could find no info on her brother’s athletic pursuits.

“In Beijing 2008, my brother was competing for Libera as a decathlete, and we could find no news on him… so we started our own website called Go Team Liberia.

“Our team has three athletes — one woman, Ebony Morrison our hurdler, and sprinters Emmanuel Matadi and Joseph Fahnbulleh.

“Emmanuel Matadi is our veteran, this is his second Olympics.”

Janelle Addy is the co-founder of Go Team Liberia, a blog that became a website dedicated to Liberian Olympians after she could find no info on her brother’s athletic pursuits.

“In Beijing 2008, my brother was competing for Libera as a decathlete, and we could find no news on him… so we started our own website called Go Team Liberia.

“Our team has three athletes — one woman, Ebony Morrison our hurdler, and sprinters Emmanuel Matadi and Joseph Fahnbulleh.

“Emmanuel Matadi is our veteran, this is his second Olympics.”

Look back on the day’s highlights from the Tokyo Olympics with our blog

Addy said with no press coverage previously, sponsorship was hard to come by.

“The entire continent of Africa is very football focussed and so you rarely have people that know that we have representation in various sports at the Olympics… we’ve been participating at the Olympics since 1956,” she said.

“As far as sponsorship goes, this is actually our first year that we’ve had a very big sponsor.”

Addy says it was “like destiny” for Clemens to become involved with the athletic team for the Tokyo Games.

“He not only designed their opening ceremony uniform, but he also did the tracksuit, he did their sweats, everything that they could possibly need, Mr Clemens handled that for them.”

His involvement sparked a whole package of support, including a song being written for the team by a group of Liberian artists including Grammy award nominees.

Addy hopes the attention is positive, spurring the team on to success, rather than it feeling like a burden or pressure.

Report of this report

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About Cholo Brooks 15387 Articles
Joel Cholo Brooks is a Liberian journalist who previously worked for several international news outlets including the BBC African Service. He is the CEO of the Global News Network which publishes two local weeklies, The Star and The GNN-Liberia Newspapers. He is a member of the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL) since 1986, and several other international organizations of journalists, and is currently contributing to the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation as Liberia Correspondent.

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