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Ezenwanne: Light Shines on Nigeria's Para-Powerlifting

By Chuka Nnabuife 

A SURPRISE call, over the weekend, gave further boost to my positive impression of the state of affairs in the sports of people living with disabilities in Nigeria.

In recent years, events have led me to conclude, based on laurels, that Nigeria's best performances in international sports outings have been in the Paralympics and related meets. Our heroes and heroines among the sports people who live or work with physical disabilities ' _never carry last_ ' when they put on their green and white jersey to represent us. 

However, a publication in this platform (chukannabuifeissues.com) by the columnist, Uzor Maxim Uzoatu, caused a call from the President of the  Para-Powerlifting Federation of Nigeria (PPFN), Charles Ezenwanne, and the encounter opened my eyes to more encouraging developments in that area of Nigeria's sports industry.

Aside the subsector's feats of recent years, the PPFN's recalibration of late, is irresistible for a news man, and Chief Ezenwanne's pointer to what lays ahead is heartwarming.

From the still fresh, Nigeria's triumph in Dubai, United Arab Emirates at the just-concluded 2023 World Para-Powerlifting Championships (August 22 -- 30) the body is already planning bigger for the events of 2024. 

According to them, Dubai 2023 was one of the compulsory stepping stones for Paris 2024 Summer Paralympics  qualification. So the next destination is Paris, France.

Their target for the global event in France is to beat the 2 gold, 2 silver, and 3 bronze medals that 

The Nigerian contingent won a total of 2 gold, 2 silver, and 3 bronze medals that Nigeria won in powerlifting.

They also want Nigeria's Para-Powerlifters to do better in Paris than they  did in the African Open Para-Powerlifting Cham­pionship in Egypt where Team Nigeria won in individual categories: 43 gold, 14 Silver and two bronze medals; and five gold medals in group events.

In a bid to fine-tune ahead the Paralympics, one learnt that there are also championships the PPFN plans to attend in Mexico and Egypt.

The comely and jovial, Aguata, Anambra State-born sports administrator dropped the hint that his Federation, is bent on making Nigeria a reference point in the field of sports for people who live or work with physical disabilities, locally and internationally Nigeria. Part of the goal is not only heading for competitions and returning with laurels but mainstreaming their athletes in society among others.

Uzoatu also described him as someone who has been "quite determined to arrest the dwindling fortunes of Nigeria’s Para-Powerlifting" since he took the mantle of PPFN's leadership in 2022, and has "vowed that nothing would stop him from making the sport to bounce back into reckoning under his watch."

In line with the mission Ezenwanne and his PPFN board are working hard to develop programs across country in the sector. They want it to span all the political zones.

Still ruing Nigeria's conspicuous losses in the sports such as the two missed gold medals at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, United Kingdom, the association wants to use the programs to bring up more athletes and officials of global standard while encouraging society's appreciation of the sports even as getting funds to participate in international meets remains a huge task.

Funds notwithstanding, Ezenwanne is keen on fulfilling the promises he made to the new sports minister, John Enoh that the Team Nigeria will make Nigerians proud in the Paris 2024 Paralympics. He believes strongly in his athletes who he usually calls, "heroes and heroines", and expect to deliver a grand outing in France.

 PPFN appeals to sports lovers in Nigeria and the corporate world for partnership in encouraging athletes living with physical challenges to fulfill their lives' ambitions and excel in their sports. Particularly, now that the PPFN has a formidable board.

 “Our body is loaded with credible and committed members ...team work and accountability in all that we do. By the special grace of  God, plans are underway for Nigeria to host an international para-powerlifting championship,” Ezenwanne told the press last year.

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