Scottish Daily Mail

Missing Games runner is found living on streets

Sprinter vanished from Glasgow 2014

- By Jonathan Brockleban­k

HE was supposed to have taken a flight back to his native Sierra Leone in early August last year.

But more than seven months after sprinter Jimmy Thoronka arrived in Glasgow for the Commonweal­th Games he has been found, emaciated and sleeping rough in London.

The 20-year-old – one of several athletes who disappeare­d at the end of the Games – has now told how the ebola outbreak wiped out his family back home and said if he had not come to the UK he would probably have died too.

He competed in one 4x100m relay before going missing, but was not among the medals.

‘I was very excited to be coming to the Games in Glasgow,’ he said. ‘I saw it as my big chance.’

He added he had hoped to win for his country. ‘But during the Games I got the terrible news that my uncle had died, probably from ebola,’ he explained. ‘I couldn’t stop crying. It was difficult to continue with competing but I tried to carry on.’

The athlete said the tragedy meant he had lost two families. Both his birth parents died during the civil war which raged in the West African country between 1991 and 2002. He was adopted by a woman after being placed in a war child camp aged five.

But his second family has been wiped out as a result of the ebola outbreak – which has caused 3,500 deaths in his country.

Thoronka said: ‘I can’t believe that my mother and all my family – my sisters and brothers – have died from ebola. This is the second time I have lost my people.’ He won the Sports Writers of Sierra Leone’s best male athlete award in 2013 and was the first athlete in his country to carry the Queen’s baton before Glasgow 2014.

He said: ‘I wanted to go to London for a while after the Games, but my bag with my money and passport in it was stolen at Glasgow station.

‘I was scared to go to the police in case they arrested me and put me in a cell, so I begged someone at the station to pay my fare to London and they agreed to do that.’

He said that he later contacted an acquaintan­ce who let him stay for a time with him and his wife in Leicester.

It was there, he said, while watching an African television channel, that he learned his adoptive mother Jelikatu Kargbo, a nurse in the police service, had also died of ebola. He told how he later discovered his family – including his three adopted sisters and brother – had been killed by the virus.

Eventually, he said, he had to leave the Leicester house and drifted down to London and began sleeping rough.

‘I wake up around 4am and if I’ve got a bus pass I get on the night bus and sleep there until morning,’ he said. ‘I met a man who sometimes lets me sleep at his house, but I have to wait outside for him to come home at 10 or 11pm and I get very cold.

‘We have a cold season in Sierra Leone, but it is not cold like England. Some days I don’t think I’m going to make it and just feel like killing myself.’

During training in Glasgow he had seen Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt.

‘He is my hero and my ambition is to become the next Usain Bolt,’ he said, though admitting, ‘I don’t see how that can happen now.’

‘Some days I feel like killing myself’

 ??  ?? Sporting hero: Usain Bolt
Sporting hero: Usain Bolt
 ??  ?? Found: Jimmy Thoronka
Found: Jimmy Thoronka

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