Just as they were overlooked during the Nigerian Sports Awards, our Paralympians have been totally neglected by the government and sports authorities. While Football, athletics and some other sports get government funding to attend continental and international competitions, our disabled athletes do not get anything and it seems they would only be remembered when the commonwealth Games comes and our preferred sports fail to win any medals.
A source very close to the athletes with disability disclosed to me that they have been subjected to begging and humiliation. And the athletes are getting disillusioned. “Can you imagine that we did not attend any competition this year? This is just months after winning four Olympic Gold medals at the London Games. A feat the able athletes could not do.” The source lamented.
“There has been no funds from government. They do not take us seriously. The Fazza Open Championship in Dubai, which used to be a regular for qualification and ranking, we did not attend..why? No funds. But if there was a wedding by one musician, the whole government will troop to Dubai.”
Further investigation revealed that we failed to attend the European Open in Lyon in July, which is another big competition for the Sports and most recently the International Wheelchair Games in Holland which took place in September was a no show for Nigeria.
If cash to attend foreign competitions was a problem, back home organizing local competition has been impossible due to cash too. In fact the federation is so cash strapped that it cancelled its only local competition, the national open which was to take place in November.
If government has failed them, so to have the corporate sponsors. Even Shell Petroleum, that hosted them and promised support after the Paralympic Games where the athletes were very successful, have not aided them at all. One athlete who begged to remain anonymous complained, ” We are just redundant. How do we train? Its only when the able body fail they come and say we should help the country. Now they do not want to help us.”
It will recalled that after our disappointing showing in the Olympics where Nigeria won no medals at all, the Paralympians went to the Paralympics a week later and won 4 gold medals and 2 silver medals. The athletes and some government officials received cash rewards from President Jonathan for this feat. As a matter of fact, while the able athletes have won only 3 Gold medals for Nigeria in 60 years of Olympic participation, the Paralympians have won 22 Gold medals in twenty years of Paralympic participation.