Cindy Ngamba looks forward to fighting for ‘the most beautiful thing ever’

UK-based boxer Cindy Ngamba officially has a shot at becoming the first athlete to win a medal for the Refugee Olympic team after her selection was confirmed by the International Olympic Committee.

Five athletes based in Great Britain have been named in the 36-strong Refugee Olympic Team for this summer’s Games in Paris, overseen by Chef de Mission Masomah Ali Zada – who picked out the three-time English champion as one to watch.

Last month, Ngamba became the first refugee boxer to independently secure an Olympic quota place with victory over Kazakhstan’s Valentina Khalzova in the women’s 75kg quarter-finals of the Road to Paris First World Qualification Tournament.

Ali Zada, an Afghani cyclist who was herself part of the last Refugee Olympic Team in Tokyo, said: “Already we have a girl in boxing, Cindy, who qualified by herself and I’m sure that she will be able to bring home a medal.

“We hope that she could win an Olympic medal for the first time in the history of the Refugee Olympic Team.”

Ngamba was born in Cameroon and moved to the UK aged 11 and has spoken candidly about the challenges she has faced obtaining citizenship since, including the time she was sent to a detention camp over paperwork issues she feared would lead to a deportation.

Now 25, she has been able to train alongside top British boxers like Natasha Jonas and Tokyo 2020 gold medallist Lauren Price.

She recently told the Olympic Channel that if selected, the opportunity would be “mind-blowing. It will be the most beautiful thing ever. Most amazing thing that will ever happen to me, and I will cherish it for the rest of my life.”

Although the Refugee Olympic Team will still walk out for the opening ceremony under the Olympic flag, they will this year have their own emblem and kit.

This is the third iteration of the team and the biggest to date, comprising 23 men and 13 women, all of whom hold refugee status in their host nations, set to compete across 12 sports in France.

Swimmer Matin Balsini earned a place in Iran’s national team aged 15, but left the country in 2022 and settled in Guildford, where – after a seven-month pause as a result of the asylum process – he has been training and working as a lifeguard on weekends.

His compatriot, Dorsa Yavarivafa, was already winning badminton tournaments in her native Tehran but as a 15-year-old was forced to flee Iran with her mother over safety concerns, and was forced to train in her apartment during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Weightlifter Ramiro Mora, the British 89 kg and 96 kg record holder, lost both his parents at a young age and made his way into the Cuban national team as a teen before leaving for the UK, where he worked for a Blackpool circus before making his way to Bristol, where he now trains.

Mora will be joined by taekwondo athlete Farzad Mansouri, heading to his second Olympics but his first as a refugee athlete.

The 22-year-old was Afghanistan’s Opening Ceremony flagbearer – one of just five competing for his birth country at the Tokyo Olympics – but fled shortly after those Games and now trains alongside the GB squad.

Ali Zada added: “I hope (we will) change minds about refugees, because the Refugee Olympic Team will show another image of refugees.

“You have a right to have a dream.”