‘The Right to Race’, an epic short that follows the journey of a refugee turned rising running star
Posted on 2023 Jun,20

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The short film The Right To Race – a story of courage, hope and humanity – is presented by On, the world’s fastest growing sportswear brand of co-owner Rodger Federer, and is being screened at Cannes Festival today on World Refugee day

Launched on World Refugee Day (20 June), Swiss sportswear brand On has produced The Right To Race, a powerful original documentary recounting Dominic Lokinyomo Lobalu’s remarkable journey from a stateless refugee to become an elite athlete, while also raising wider questions about the importance of identity, representation and belonging, by celebrating and highlighting humanity’s untapped potential.

What does it mean to have an identity - not just as an athlete but as a human? That’s the question that has propelled refugee and long distance runner Lobalu from a war-torn region in South Sudan to the snow-filled slopes of Switzerland - where he is fighting for the right to race and represent his new country on the world stage.

Written and directed by award-winning filmmaker Richard Bullock in association with Hungry Man Productions, the new film deploys archive footage compiled from as early as 2017 to tell the story of Lobalu’s quest to represent Switzerland at the World Athletics Championships, where - despite being an elite competitor challenging the world’s best - he is currently excluded from official Refugee teams and has to wait up to 10 years before being eligible for citizenship in Switzerland. 





The 30-minute film centres around the special relationship forged between Dominic and his Swiss coach, Markus Hagmann—a relationship born from a shared love of running. Lobalu's struggle to be recognized by World Athletics as an international contender representing his home country takes centre stage as negotiations continue with the sport's governing body.

Never letting up the pace, the film deftly captures the disappointment, determination and incredible physical prowess of an athlete who is at the top of his game - yet unable to compete. More than this, it challenges us to reconsider notions of national identity and belonging.

The Right to Race is Bullock’s third collaboration with On, having written and directed the brand’s previous short films including RUN: The Athlete Refugee Team Story and the award-winning animated production Black Ice. A writer/director whose longform films have run on the National Geographic Channel, Eurosport and the BBC, Bullock built up an award-winning legacy in advertising before focusing on directing full time. He was a former Executive Creative Director at 180 Amsterdam and worked with leading agencies such as Chiat/Day/Mojo, Hunt Lascaris TBWA, Cliff Freeman & Partners and Lowe Howard Spink.  

Richard Bullock, director, says: "The Right to Race is largely a story about the trials and tribulations of a refugee athlete. It's also a touching story of how a growing friendship can persevere and, as a united front, never give up the fight. We were also glad to capture the innermost thoughts and feelings of those who represent World Athletics as a compelling juxtaposition on how the sport's authority views and responds to the plight of Dominic, as a refugee, trying to claim his identity not just as an athlete but as a human."

Feliciano Robayna, the film's Executive Producer and Global Head of Sports Marketing at On, adds: "The Right to Race is a captivating story of unwavering grit and charisma that personifies the enduring human spirit. We have been following Dominic's journey from his origins to his new home and life as a leading athlete in Switzerland. Despite all the setbacks, he has grown to become one of today's most respected competitors on the world stage. His story is not only about competing and making it to the top but also about representation and belonging. His dreams will undoubtedly come true, thanks to his belief in himself and the support of those around him."

Dominic Lokinyomo Lobalu, athlete, says: “I was born in South Sudan in a small village called Chukudum. When the war started we lost everything. We lost our parents. At nine years of age I was forced to run away from my country to Kenya to look for a better life. Because I was the only boy in my family, my sisters didn't have a chance to go to school. They are all looking to me. So they have all their hope in me.”

The Right to Race will be broadcast in 53 countries on Eurosport 1 on World Refugee Day, June 20th, during Prime Time. The film will also be shown during relevant sporting events, such as the World Athletics Championships 2023, and available on Discovery+ streaming services throughout Europe.