Is A Hero’s Comeback in Store for Feyisa Lilesa?

2016 Rio Olympics - Athletics - Final - Men's Marathon - Sambodromo - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 21/08/2016. Feyisa Lilesa (ETH) of Ethiopia celebrates. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

Getachew Reda, a government spokesman, says that marathon runner will not be treated any differently upon returning to Ethiopia.

There are many things that make the Rio Olympics stand out. From Usian Bolt’s third consecutive Olympic win to the U.S athlete who competed wearing a Hijab, Rio has left many memorable moments. For Ethiopians, the humorous display of swimmer “Robel the Whale” marked the beginning, the whooping victory of Almaz Ayana the middle, while the unexpected protest of Feyisa Lilesa marked the end.

Yesterday, Feyisa Lilesa, the Ethiopian Marathoner who came after the Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge to win a silver medal for his country, did something totally unexpected. Upon finishing the race, he showed an X sign with his hands as a means of expressing solidarity with his people. In an interview conducted afterwards, he overtly expressed fear of returning to his country, expecting repercussions for his actions.  “If I go, they will kill me” he said.

That didn’t stop him from showing the same sign of protest when he went up to the podium to receive his medal. It was the closing ceremony, and he showed the X sign with the whole world watching him. Many people hailed him as a hero, including the famous author of “The Alchemist”, Paulo Coelho, who wrote “Risking his life, an example for many”.

Today, Getachew Reda, a government spokesman, said that the marathon runner has nothing to fear. Mr. Getachew added that even though expressing political views in Olympic Games is forbidden, no harm will come to the Olympic silver medalist because of his political views, and that he, along with his team mates, will be welcomed back as a hero.

It is still not clear whether Feyisa Lilesa will return. In his interview, he showed interest of going to the U.S or Kenya. “If the U.S gives me visa, I will go there.” he said.