An Ugandan weightlifter who went missing from an Olympic training camp on Friday, and reportedly left a note saying he wanted to stay in Japan, is now understood to have handed himself in.
Julius Ssekitoleko was reported missing after failing to turn up for a routine Covid-19 test, with officials saying on Friday that police were making an ‘all-out effort’ to find Ssekitoleto, who was taking part in the Ugandan training camp near Osaka.
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But according to reports, the 20-year-old turned himself in to a police station in Mie Prefecture – more than three hours’ drive and an 11-hour trip on public transport from his previous hotel base in Izumisano – on Tuesday.
Police are understood to be currently taking his testimony on where he went after losing his bearings; he reportedly bought a ticket on the Shinkansen bullet train to Nagoya station in central Japan, where he was photographed.
According to reports, Ssekitoleto had left behind a note saying: ‘I will not return to a difficult country to live in, but will work in Japan. I left a note saying ‘I want to do it’.’
He had not qualified to take part in the Tokyo Games, and was due to return to Uganda on Tuesday.
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Ugandan Weightlifting Federation president Salim Musoke had said on Friday the last time he spoke to the athlete was on Tuesday, July 13.
He said: ‘When I got the message, I wondered, what happened if they were well guarded. What happened to the security they have been talking about?
‘Athletes disappearing is not good for the country. I am praying they should get this boy. The government of Japan should get this boy, and then we expel him from the sport.’
Following his disappearance, a Ugandan Olympic Committee statement had read: ‘It was anticipated that he would qualify for the games.
‘However, he did not make the quota as informed by the International Weightlifting Federation on 5 July 2021. He, together with his coach, were due to return to Uganda on 20 July 2021. We, during our regular team briefings, emphasised the need to respect the immigration regulations of Japan and not opt to leave the camp without authorisation.’
Photo Credit: Getty