The Guardian reported top sprinter from Sierra Leone is now broke, homeless and living illegally on the streets of London. Jimmy Thoronka, 20, has been struggling for survival since August, when he competed in the 100-meter relay race at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. When he learned his entire family had been wiped out by Ebola, he vanished after the games. Later, his passport and money got stolen. Thoronoka’s visa expired in September.
With no way to get back to Africa, he’s spent the cold winter destitute and distraught.
“Mostly, I sleep at the park,” how told the Guardian. “Sleeping in the park, sleeping on the bus, moving around the bus up and down … So I’ll be doing that until daybreak.” Despite his misfortune, Thoronka, has not given up hope that he’ll survive his hellish ordeal.
Exercise was once a way for Thoronka to compete, now, it’s a way for him to keep warm. Thoronka runs to ward off the London cold, and uses a park gym to stay in shape with hopes of returning to the world of competition. “I really want to be a star, a real athlete, a good athlete, one of the best stars in the world, or at least in my country,” he told the newspaper. “So I have that dream, that even in the situation I’m in, and the constraints that I face, I just keep saying to myself, ‘OK, I have to keep training, I have to keep training.’”
He was arrested by London police on a charge of overstaying his visa, shortly after The Guardian found the missing athlete. He was released Sunday night and will not be deported to Sierra Leone, where his hometown was badly hit by Ebola and remains under quarantine.
Thoronka’s story has gained international interest, and a GoFundMe page made by a supporter has already raised about $35,000 for the destitute runner.
According to The Guardian, he has been able to hold a job legally or got any benefits or housing.
Model Lily Cole and actress Samantha Morton are among those who have rallied to his cause.He told the newspaper. “I don’t know how to thank everyone. If I can make a success of my life as a sprinter my plan is to go back to Sierra Leone and help homeless people. Last week I had no hope but now maybe I will make it.”