Missing African judoka 'on holiday' - official

A judoka and three coaches from the Democratic Republic of Congo's Olympic delegation, listed as having gone missing after leaving the Athletes' Village at the London Games, missed their flight home - but the judoka says he is on holiday, an official source said Tuesday.

Cedric Mandembo, who competed in the +100kg category, boxing coach Blaise Bekwa, athletics coach Guy Nkita and judo coach Ibula Masengo have not been seen since the Games came to a close on Sunday evening, a sports ministry source had said Monday.

"The three coaches and the judoka did not take the plane" but the rest of the delegation did turn up for the flight home, the head of the country's National Olympic Committee, Amos Mbayo Kitenge, told AFP.

An informed source in the capital said national boxing coach Bekwa disappeared from the Athletes' Village on Friday while Nkita, national athletics technical director, had left the area just after Ilunga Mande pulled out of the men's marathon. Masengo was reported to have disappeared Saturday night while Mandembo was said to have disappeared just after the closing ceremony on Sunday evening.

Mandembo insisted he was just having a break.

"I have not fled. I came to participate in a competition and I will go back. As my visa is valid until September I have asked the chef de mission if I can stay on for a few days," he told Top Congo FM radio, adding he was seeing friends.

Kitenge said he had spoken to Mandembo.

"I had him on the phone this morning. He called me himself to say he had not gone missing but is in Manchester, where he is spending his holidays."

Mandembo added he was irked at only having received 1,500 euros expenses along with his squadmates, a sum he deemed insufficient noting that some rivals from neighbouring Republic of Congo as well as the Angolan contingent had to his knowledge received "at least 8,000."

Asked about the disappearances, the minister of sport and youth, Baudoin Banza Mukalay, said Monday his country's 12-strong delegation was due back in Kinshasa by Wednesday.

The country's four athletes did not shine at the Games: Mandembo lost his first fight after only 49 seconds; Ilunga Sankuru finished 14th out of 15 in the women's 1500m; while boxer Mwamba Meji lost on a referee's decision.

Marathon runner Ilunga Mande pulled out two kilometres from the finish.

At the London Games, seven Cameroonian athletes went missing and are believed to have defected, according to officials, while three from the Ivory Coast have also disappeared.


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