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Mayor of small Aussie town that hosted missing Cameroon athletes says team were ‘together the whole time’

A SMALL rural town is in the spotlight after a connection emerged between the missing athletes from Cameroon.

THE mayor of the rural Australian town that hosted the missing Cameroonian athletes has described their movements in the lead up to their mysterious disappearance.

Games officials appear clueless over the whereabouts of one-third of the Cameroon team after eight of its 24 members walked out of the athletes’ village, never to return again.

Officials said the athletes left in “three waves”. The first round of missing athletes were discovered on Sunday when three of the team “departed the village”. On Monday night, another two were declared missing, and finally, on Tuesday, three others left their room.

The Cameroon team’s press agent Simon Molombe told news.com.au the players “just left in the night” and there were no leads on the missing athletes on Thursday morning.

He told news.com.au he “doesn’t think they’ll come back”.

“They took away everything, if they left a message we would have looked for them already. We have no idea which direction they headed in,” Mr Molombe said.

Meanwhile, the small town of Warwick, 130km southwest of Brisbane, which hosted the athletes, has been thrust in the spotlight.

“They were together as a team the whole time, they trained together, they had some interaction with the public but it was never long enough,” Mayor Tracy Dobie told news.com.au.

The team arrived in Warwick two weeks before the beginning of the Commonwealth Games and slept in the dormitory of a former boarding school “overseen by their team management”.

“They did not have free reign to be out and about in the community at all hours of the day and night. It wasn’t the way their training or their training camp was conducted.

“They left our region as a team to go and compete in the Commonwealth Games.”

Cr Dobie said there was no indication they were unhappy and “they were great ambassadors for their country, there was no indication at any time that there was an issue with individuals”.

She said that while the athletes spent the majority of their time training, they made use of local facilities, played against local teams and were excited to see a kangaroo in the wild.

“They were here to train and they stuck to their training programs. These are international athletes who have very strict training programs and they undertook their training as was expected,” Cr Dobie said.

She said the team was bilingual, speaking English and French.

“The team was here in Warwick training, but the reality is we are three hours away from the Gold Coast, it is quite a trip,” Cr Dobie told news.com.au.

“I appreciate that it’s not unimaginable, certainly you could hire a car and drive here, but if that was the case someone would know about it.

“There’s no reason why they couldn’t have returned here, but to do that without it being obvious to someone, they would have had to either arrange for transport prior to leaving Warwick and I don’t believe the team was in communication with members of our public for long enough to develop that sort of relationship.”

Games officials are stumped over the whereabouts of the Cameroonian athletes, five who are boxers and three who are weightlifters.

The matter has prompted Australia’s Border Force to monitor the situation.

The missing athletes are boxers Simplice Fotsala, Arsene Fokou Fosso, Christian Ndzie Tsoye, Ulrich Rodrigue Yombo and Christelle Aurore Ndiang. Weightlifters Olivier Heracles Matam Matam, Petit David Minkoumba and Arcangeline Sonkbou Fouodji are also among the missing.

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Team Cameroon’s Chef de Mission, Victor Agbor Nso said the Cameroon team has filed an official complaint with Australian police.

“We have officially informed our hierarchy back home: the Ministry of Sports and the president of the National Olympic Committee of Cameroon,” he said.

“We have also laid a formal complaint to the Australian police.”

A Queensland Police spokesman told news.com.au that authorities are not on the lookout for the athletes because “they haven’t committed any offence” and the athletes still hold a valid visa.

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