April 4, 2016 By Sahr Morris Jr.
Former Sierra Leone sprinter, Sandy Walker, who sought asylum in Australia during the 2006 Commonwealth Games, says his life has been transformed beyond belief.
According to dailytelegraph.com.au, the former 100m and 200m runner, who works stacking shelves in a northern beaches supermarket, said the backdrop to his childhood was a devastating 11-year-long civil war which left him an orphan.
Now he is a proud father of four, works fulltime at Manly’s Harris Farms and enjoys watching the Manly Sea Eagles on TV, along with soccer and cricket.
“Australia has changed my life,” said Mr. Walker, 30. “I feel safe here. I enjoy my work and my children have a future.”
Sandy Walker was one of 14 Sierra Leonean athletes who absconded from the 2006 Melbourne games for fear of their safety on return to their home country.
A group of the athletes, including Walker, were helped by Northern Beaches Refugee Sanctuary, headed by David Addington, of Manly.
Walker told the Manly Daily his best 100m time was 10.4 seconds, while his 200m best was 21.45, although he wonders what he could have achieved with better training and support.
He said he had not planned to seek asylum when he came to Australia, but during the competition his teammates began talking about it and his decision to join them was “spontaneous”.
The former sprinter said he would never forget how the northern beaches people helped him in his moment of need by donating clothes and providing cheap accommodation, as well as legal support to help him complete his protection visa application.
Addington, who help Sandy, said: “I think Sandy speaks for himself. He is a happy man and his life is going well in Australia. He has a family, he’s contributing to Australia by paying his taxes and it’s a fabulous story.”