Blaise Yepmou Mendouo (left) of Cameroon punches Mohammed Arjaoui of Morocco. (Photo: JACK GUEZ/AFP/GettyImages)
On the run from Cameroonian officials and armed with visas that allow them to remain in the U.K. until November, five boxers from the AWOL delegation met with the BBC in secret and said they are looking for a British sponsor so they can remain in the country and continue to train.
Although initial reports stated that the athletes may have fled for economic reasons, the boxers say they were threatened by Cameroonian authorities and that they will not be able to continue in the sport if they return.
"We are not staying here because we don't like our country, but [because we] want to practice the sports we love," boxer Thomas Essomba told the BBC. "We want to become professional. We cannot return to Cameroon... if we return, we will not practice anymore."
All five of the fleeing boxers were eliminated from the competition shortly after losing matches. According to Essomba, for Cameroonian athletes, an Olympic loss can be a career-ender.
"Cameroonian authorities threatened us — those who brought us to these Games," Essomba said. "When a colleague was defeated, he was asked to give his passport."
In addition to the boxers, Drusille Ngako, backup goalkeeper for the women’s soccer team, and swimmer Paul Ekane Edingue also went missing during the course of the Games.
Reuters reports that the athletes’ Olympic stunt has happened to Cameroon several times before with athletes jumping ship at both Francophonie and Commonwealth games as well as junior soccer competitions.
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