Many Nigerians are unaware of the challenges faced by Para Athletes on and off the field. Aclsports caught up with Rio Paralympic Gold medalist, Flora Ugwunwa.
In 2015, the women’s F54 Javelin thrower who came behind Tunisia’ Hania Aidi at the All African Games, came out stronger the next year.
Ugwunwa in Rio, shattered Liwan Yang’s Paralympic Record (PR) of 17.89m set at the London Games four years ago and erased Tunisian Hania Aidi’s World Record (WR) of 18.86m set at the 2015 IPC World Championships in Doha throwing an impressive 20.25m in her third attempt.
The Anambra state thrower who ended her compulsory one year National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) shares her experiences with aclsports.com
Q: How has life been since you won the gold in Rio?
Ugwunwa: Life has not been fair with us. But Para athletes from Imo and Ogun states were lucky because their governors hosted and appreciated their efforts. The remaining Para athletes are in Limbo and still keeping faith that anything can happen.
I know this current government have passion for sports but the paralympians that made Nigeria proud at 2016 Paralympics games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil have not been honoured and awarded anything which is not healthy. Some of us are currently poached by other African countries that have passion for sports.
Q: Do you think this happened in the past?
Ugwunwa: No, during that last administration the then President, Goodluck Jonathan honoured the 2012 paralympians with five million naira each as well as MON. What we see now is different, my brother. There is nothing like incentive or package for us (Paralympians). The truth is that the physically challenged persons are “Marginalised” and it’s not good at all.
D’tigress (Nigeria Basketball female team) that went to African qualifying championship in 2017 were awarded with one million naira each and we the paralympians that made Nigeria proud where our able bodied counterparts failed did not receive any award.
Q: What have you been doing after the Rio?
Ugwunwa: I’m from Anambra state but currently stay with my husband in Edo state. I just ended my National Youth Service. It is very difficult for the physically challenged to get a job in Nigeria. We are called “disabled” by most Nigerians and that we cannot do anything. I am appealing to the state and federal government to always give recognition to “Special athletes” when vacancies are out in the federal Government Parastatals.
Q: 2018 is here, do you have plans?
Ugwunwa: Yes, I hope the National Sports Festival can be held this year so I can compete against other athletes, prove my worth, win the festival and move into the camp. Everything is a gradual process in sports and I’m ready to pay the price to become a champion ones again.