By Amaechi Agbo
Nigeria’s quest to book her ticket at the August-September 2020 Paralympic Games in powerlifting hangs in the balance as the President, Para-Powerlifting Federation of Nigeria, PPFN, on the Monday presented a rival team to challenge Team Nigeria at the International Conference Centre, ICC, Abuja venue of the championship.
The ongoing Para Powerlifting World Cup holding in Abuja took off to a troubled start as the President of the Para Powerlifting Federation of Nigeria (PPFN), Queen Uboh-Idris pitching herself against Nigeria presented a rival team to challenge Team Nigeria at the championship.
PPFN President presented a team regarded as “Unstoppable” which has 50 athletes while the ministry of youth and sports development presented a team of 30 athletes.
The World Cup also serves as Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games qualifiers.
Miss Queen, who is enmeshed in a faceoff with PPFN board members, had declared the tournament her personal project even as she initially hijacked the accreditations meant for Team Nigeria.
Her efforts to hand the accreditations over to Team Unstoppable, a rival delegation created by her to challenge Team Nigeria, whose members were at some point locked out of the International Conference Centre, venue of the event did not go down well.
Crisis In PPFN
The crisis engulfing the Para-Powerlifting Federation of Nigerian, PPFN got to a climax in Lagos on January 22nd, 2020 when the enior Para-powerlifters staged a protest in Lagos over the exclusion of junior lifters from the World Cup competition, last minute change of their camping venue from Lagos to Abuja and the removal of their coach, Are Feyisetan,
The protest took place inside the powerlifting gymnasium of the National Stadium, Surulere with about 70 athletes in attendance.
Highlighting their reasons for the protest, the powerlifters slammed the board of the Nigeria Para-powerlifting Federation for replacing head coach Are Feyisetan, as well as the choice of Abuja for the training camp instead of their traditional base in Lagos, and the proposed exclusion of junior athletes from the championships
The angry athletes locked Technical Director of the federation, Joy Mayaki, inside the gym and refused to let her out until the intervention of Feyisetan, who pleaded with them to release her.
The Nigeria Para-powerlifting Federation in December organised trials for 125 senior athletes in Lagos and trials for junior athletes in Abuja.
Nigeria is hosting the World Para Powerlifting World Cup in Abuja from today, amid with a total of 183 powerlifters from 21 nations set for action including big wigs like Egypt’s Paralympic and World Champion Sherif Osman.
Hosts Nigeria had topped the Para powerlifting medals table at the Rio 2016 Games and will be fielding all their international stars in their backyards.
Three-time Paralympic and current world champion Lucy Ejike will lead the way in the women’s up to 61kg at the Abuja International Conference Centre on Wednesday (5 February).
Rio 2016 champion Roland Ezuruike is another home favourite in action in the men’s up to 54kg. Mexico City 2017 and Nur-Sultan 2019 World Championships gold medallist Rehab Ahmed of Egypt will also take centre-stage on day one in the women’s up to 50kg.
Competition at the event begins on Wednesday at Abuja International Conference Centre, and will last for three days.
Para-powerlifting has been Nigeria’s backbone of medal hall in Paralympics championships. In Rio, Brazil 2016, Nigeria powerlifters won a total of 6 gold, 2 silver and one bronze medals to give Nigeria first position in Africa and 17th in the world at the event.
They finished seventeenth overall on the medal table in Rio 2016, their performance was the best medal wise among African nations at the Games. It was also Nigeria’s best gold medal performance at a Paralympic Games since 1992, when the country made its debut.
The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic will commence from August 25 to September 6th.
It is the first World Cup of 2020 and is part of the qualification process for this year’s Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.