Rio 2016: Tsegai Tewelde living Olympic dream after London Marathon

By Jane LewisBBC Scotland
Callum Hawkins, Tsegai Tewelde and Derek Hawkins
Callum Hawkins, Tsegai Tewelde and Derek Hawkins will represent Britain in Rio

New GB team member Tsegai Tewelde is beginning to realise his dream of completing a journey from land-mine casualty to the world athletics elite.

The Glasgow-based, Eritrea-born 26-year-old secured his place in the 2016 Rio Olympics squad by finishing 12th in Sunday's London Marathon.

"It's one step to get to the Olympics, but I need to train hard to get better," said Tewelde.

"I admire and look up to runners like Mo Farah."

Comparisons with the 2012 Olympic double gold medallist will be made.

But, unlike Farah, who has a UK-born mother and moved to London from Somalia with his family as a child, Tewelde did not reach Britain until he was 17.

That's when he sought asylum in Edinburgh along with six Eritrea team-mates after the 2008 World Cross Country Championships, the group citing fears about their future safety and being forced into the military.

Tewelde has since been granted British citizenship and will form part of a Scottish trio representing Team GB in the Olympic marathon in Brazil this summer.

He qualified automatically as the second-highest placed Briton in the London Marathon - his first race at the distance - behind Callum Hawkins.

And the latter's brother, Derek, has since been selected as the third member of the team.

Asked what his thoughts were as he lined up beside elite marathon runners in London, Tewelde said: "I was just saying to myself - maybe one day I will be like them and was dreaming of that."

Tsegai Tewelde (blue vest) in the London Marathon
Tsegai Tewelde (blue vest) was 12th in Sunday's London Marathon

What can he achieve in Rio? "My target is simply to get a better time and result," he said.

"I am just starting and need to build my body and my strength."

Tewelde, who still has relatives and friends back in his homeland, was not keen to talk about the politics behind his original reasons for seeking asylum.

However, he did speak about the landmine incident in war-torn Eritrea that claimed the life of a friend and left Tewelde himself with a large scar on his forehead.

"I was seven or eight years old and I had an accident with a bomb explosion," he recalled.

"I lost a friend. There were four of us and we lost one."

Tewelde had further barriers to overcome once in Britain, including problems with funding and being struck down with a serious lung condition in 2012.

"When I was in hospital, the doctors told me my left lung was not working, but after six months to a year, I was better," he said.

The athlete says the thought of running for Britain kept him going and helped him overcome the illness.

Tewelde, who admits it took him a while to settle into the Scottish culture, now runs for the famous Shettleston Harriers running club.

"They treat me as family," he added. "Life was more easy when I joined Shettleston Harriers and Glasgow is so friendly."

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