BY: NNEKA IKEM ANIBEZE
Nigeria’s Para-powerlifting team THE UNSTOPPABLES derived their name from their prowess and determination to make Nigeria proud despite their physical challenges.
Until 2016, when the team went to the Olympic Games in Rio, nobody reckoned with the Para-athletes.
They attended the Games with a 23-man team of which 14 of them were Para Powerlifters.
At the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, they won a total of 12 medals comprising 8 Gold 2 Silver and 3 Bronze . Out of these 12 medals, the Untoppables won 6 Gold, 2 Silver and 1 bronze, while Para Athletics won 1 Silver and 1 bronze.
They came back without the pomp and pageantry that follows other sports men and women who win medals at the big stage like the Olympic Games.
That was when the former Minister of Youth and Sports Barrister Solomon Selcap Dalung stepped in to give them the honour they deserved.
Barrister Dalung ensured that each gold medalist got five thousand US dollars , three thousand dollars to silver winners and two thousand dollars to the bronze winners.
He didn’t stop there. The former Minister also ensured that the Para athletes got a Presidential handshake from President Muhammadu Buhari. Thereafter, the Para Power lifters became a brand.
Peak Milk, manufactured by FrieslandCampina WAMCO Nigeria Plc became their official sponsor and Dalung paved the way for Peak Milk to renovate and equip the Gymnasium with modern equipment which the The Unstoppables currently use now at the National Stadium, Lagos. The athletes also get monthly supplies of Peak products to bring out the champion in them.
Then began the campaign to recognise this world-acclaimed accomplishments of Nigeria’s special sports athletes.
Following their successes in all the competitions they attended, the attitude towards people with disabilities especially the physically challenged sportsmen and women in the country changed.
The election of Ms Queen Uboh as the President of the Nigeria Para Powerlifting Federation became the icing on the cake!
She went very far in soliciting financial support from the public sector for the Para Powerlifters.
The money she raised through the public sector was used to take care of the athletes’ special needs and also their trips to international competitions.
Ms Uboh went far in stamping Nigeria’s feet on International Para Powerlifting politics which earned her a place as a member of the World Para Power Lifting board.
Through her membership of the world body, Ms Uboh was able to bring the World Para Powerlifting Championship to Nigeria.
The first edition took place in Lagos in January 2019. This is just a step out of a thousand miles .
Today, the Para Powerlifting Federation has gotten the rights to host the 2020 Para Powerlifting World Cup and two subsequent editions.
Not only that! The Federation has also gone ahead to create a clothing line for the powerlifters which will also help to generate funds for the athletes and the Federation.
These are just a few of the achievements which have just started to roll in as a result of the solid foundation laid by Barrister Solomon Dalung, the former Youth and Sports Minister, who ensured that only passionate stakeholders with the interest of sports are elected into the boards of the National Sports federations.
You can’t stop THE UNSTOPPABLES!