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Kidane Solomon: Generali Running Talent with a heart of gold

31-year-old Kidane cuts an unassuming figure. But behind this exterior lies an iron will and unwavering motivation. A keen runner with dreams of making it as a professional, he trains with the utmost dedication and drive to give nothing less than his best – something he achieves and then some. His podium places and wins have now earned him sponsorship as a Generali Running Talent. We are proud to be able to finance young athletes with a migrant background as part of this programme. We want to encourage them to achieve their sporting dreams and goals.

“ Have a tangible dream and never lose sight of it. But above all, never lose hope. Arriving in a new country is not easy. You have to learn to live with uncertainty, and you have to make sacrifices to be successful and make your dreams a reality. Never give up. “

Who is Kidane Solomon?

 

Kidane Solomon is from Eritrea. He was born in 1990 and arrived in Switzerland in 2014 as a political asylum seeker. He started running more or less by chance in 2017. What started out as little more than a hobby gradually became an obsession. He trained regularly and the races he competed in got tougher and tougher. In September 2020, he garnered attention after coming in third in the Frankfurt half marathon. It’s an impressive performance when you consider that he had to borrow running shoes from a friend for the race. After this success he joined the THSN Refugee Team, got the necessary equipment and went out to Ethiopia for a three-month intensive training camp at the start of 2021. His performance improved quickly and he took part in several races, regularly featuring among the top finishers.

 

You just have to look at Kidane to feel his enthusiasm: his passion for running, his determination to make a career out of the sport, and the will to do everything in his power to make his dreams come true. His efforts are paying off.

 

Sporting successes

  • 20k in 1:01:40 in the Geneva 20 km by Geneva Airport on 7 November 2021
  • 10k in 30:46:85 in Uster at the Swiss Championships on 4 June 2021
  • Half marathon in 1:05:16 in Dresden (Germany) in the Itelligence Citylauf Invitational on 21 March 2021
  • 5k in 14:18 in the Geneva 20 km by Geneva Airport on 22 November 2020 (first place)
  • Half marathon in 01:04:04 in Belp at the Swiss Half Marathon Championships on 18 October 2020 (second place)
  • 10k in 30:12 in Belp at the Swiss Championships on 27 September 2020 (fourth place)
  • Half marathon in 1:04:15 in Frankfurt on 13 September 2020 (third place)

 

Kidane, did you ever dream of becoming a professional athlete?

 

No way! As a child I followed in my parents’ footsteps and became a farmer. I could not imagine any other future. It was not until I fled my country and arrived in Geneva that I discovered running.

 

Tell us a bit about your life and your arrival in Switzerland.

 

I was born in a small village called Adi Bahro, near Adi Quala in the south of Eritrea, on 5 April 1990. My parents were farmers and I was one of nine children. I attended school up to secondary level. The government suspected that I planned to leave the country, so one day soldiers came to arrest me. That was 2012, I was 22 years old. Not long after my release, I did flee and left my family behind.

 

The journey that followed was the worst ordeal I have ever been through. It lasted three months in total. Across the desert, through Sudan and then on to Libya; it was hell. On the way, I met others who were fleeing like me and we helped one another. Otherwise we would not have survived. At the start we lived on nothing but bread and water. Sometimes people picked us up in their cars and gave us something to eat, but there was never enough for everyone. I went for more than 20 days without eating. The boat crossing from Libya to Italy was very dangerous, too. I only spent four days in Italy before I arrived in Switzerland via Lugano. I was taken in by the Vallorbe asylum centre. That was on 3 June 2014. Then, a few weeks later, I arrived in Geneva.

 

How did you start running and how did you come across the THSN Refugee Team?

 

While I was still living in civil protection housing, I spent my time attending French courses and taking part in leisure activities like football. It was there that I met a friend who suggested we take part in the Course de l’Escalade race. We just did it for fun, we did not even officially register. Then I ran the third-fastest time on the 5k route. Afterwards I wanted to run more often – to stay in shape and simply for enjoyment, too.

 

I had developed a taste for it. I started to train seriously and take part in regional races. Thanks to my former coach Tesfay Tcha, I was gradually able to improve my performance and started to dream of a professional career. One volunteer was especially helpful. Her name was Magali. She came up with the idea of registering with Flag21, a charitable organisation promoting the integration of refugees through sport. This ultimately led me to the THSN Refugee Team where I met Tadesse Abraham. At the start of 2021, I was given the opportunity to take part in a three-month training camp in Ethiopia with him and other top athletes thanks to a fundraising campaign. With the support of the THSN Refugee Team, my chances of a professional career as an athlete have risen considerably.

 

What does your day-to-day look like as a Generali Running Talent?

 

At the moment I train every day. I train with the THSN Refugee Team twice a week, and the other days I run with Tadesse Abraham. He and my coach Olivier Baldacchino help me prepare for the races I take part in. Training for a 10k is different to training for a half marathon.

 

What is your current goal?

 

My dream is to make a living from running. Working towards this, my next goal is to run my first marathon in under 2 hours and 10 minutes.

 

What message would you like to give to young refugees and migrants?

 

Have a tangible dream and never lose sight of it. But above all, never lose hope. Arriving in a new country is not easy. You have to learn to live with uncertainty, and you have to make sacrifices to be successful and make your dreams a reality. Never give up.