Ugandan weightlifter Julius Ssekitoleko failed to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics this week. Then, on Friday, he disappeared.
A note has been discovered, CNN reports, written by the 20-year-old insisting he went missing on purpose and does not want to return to his home country because life there is too difficult.
Ssekitoleko reportedly asked that his belongings be sent home to his wife. His whereabouts are still unknown, but CNN and local reports confirm Ssekitoleko bought a bullet train ticket to the city of Nagoya after last being seen early Friday morning near his hotel. Nagoya is just under two hours from Tokyo by bullet train.
The Japanese news agency Kyodo reports that Ssekitoleko wrote “a note to the effect of ‘I want to work in Japan,’” before leaving. He also missed a scheduled COVID-19 test before bailing.
Beatrice Ayikoru, the chef de mission of the Ugandan delegation, told Kyodo that they were working closely with Japanese officials. “We, during our regular team briefings both in Uganda and in Japan, emphasized inter alia the need to respect the immigration regulations of Japan and not opt to leave the camp without authorization,” she said.
The New York Times reported that two members of the Ugandan Olympic delegation tested positive for COVID-19 last month. While the Olympic Village just announced its first coronavirus case, 44 people affiliated with the Olympics have come down with the virus since athletes, press, and staff began arriving in Tokyo for preparation.
Tokyo is currently in a state of emergency amid rising case numbers and widespread protests against the games. The Olympics begin on July 23.
Ssekitoleko finished 10th in the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia. At those games, hundreds of athletes tried to claim asylum in Australia once the event was over, but their applications were rejected. Two rugby players from Uganda went missing after competing in the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Scotland, and were later granted asylum.