“I see myself as a special person,” Ifeanyi Christian says, and he has every reason to feel special. One of sixteen athletes recently unveiled by Making of Champions (MoC) Track Club in Lagos, Christian stands distinct as the club’s first ever para-athlete and certainly isn’t lacking any self-belief as he set his sights on being MoC’s first ever Paralympic gold medallist.
“I’m looking towards a gold medal at the Paralympics in Tokyo next year, that’s my expectation because with the time I’m running and the research I’ve made, I believe I can win a gold medal,” Christian who competes in the 100m, 200m and 400m in the T46 category says with an admirable air of quiet confidence.
This, in a nutshell, is what MoC is all about – scouring the country for the most promising young athletes, putting them through a transformative process that turbo-charges their talent and providing them with the means and platform with which to express themselves and actualise their most fervent professional dreams and aspirations. The thirteen Junior and Youth athletes unveiled by the Track Club, for instance, are all products of open trials held in Lagos, Enugu, Rivers and Delta states in 2018.
In addition to Ifeanyi Christian, Kelechi Christian (no relation) who is the reigning African U20 100m Women’s Champion and quarter-miler Suraj Habib were added to the senior ranks of the Track Club.
In the Junior and Youth ranks John Clifford, Favour Ashe, Adeola Ayo, Gracious Ushie, Inioluwa Mebawondu, Eze Owho, and Uthman Yusuff were added to the male category. In the female category MoC added Miracle Thompson, Fidelia Ucheobi, Success Umukoro, Victory Owhoviorole, Maria Umoibang and Halima Badmus.
The man responsible for all of this, MoC Founder/CEO Bambo Akani couldn’t have imagined what a huge shot in the arm of Nigerian Athletics his dream would turn out to be when they started the Track Club three years ago. The 2019 crop of athletes represent the highest number of intakes in the Track Club’s history but Akani is in no doubt that the new athletes will go on to fulfil their immense promise with the support of MoC.
“We’re very humbled, we’re very excited,” he said. “We’re in awe at the task at hand. We’re almost doubling our number of athletes; this brings the total number of athletes at MoC Track Club to almost 30. It’s a historic moment for us because this is the largest class of athletes that we’ve brought in.”
“For the 13 Junior and Youth athletes unveiled today, their initial target is running at the World U20 Championships in Nairobi, Kenya, next year, while the three senior athletes will join the likes of Joy Udo-Gabriel and Jerry Jakpa. Their main target is getting on to the senior team for Nigeria, starting with the Olympics in 2020 in Tokyo, and then Paris 2024 and Los Angeles 2028. We are very excited about the future.”
And while Christian can now look forward with optimism at the prospect of competing at the Paralympics in Tokyo next year providing he scales through the national trials in Enugu next month, his outlook wasn’t always this bright when he suffered a life-changing injury that led to the amputation of his left arm when he was just 10-years old.
It is a testament of the unique redemptive qualities of sports and indeed of his warrior spirit that the 2018 National Sports Festival (NSF) gold medallist didn’t allow that transformative experience at such a young age weaken his resolve to make a mark for himself and in athletics, he has found the perfect avenue to actualise his dream.
“Being amputated, I didn’t believe it. I didn’t see it coming. If it was something that you could see coming, you can find a way to stop it but I didn’t see it coming and also then I was 10 years old and the thing just happened and I saw myself like this,” he told busybuddiesng.com.
“But I know there’s a purpose for why God did it [and] coming into sports with that has being a good thing for me because travelling and meeting people from different walks of life and not being discriminated against makes me feel good.
“I’m looking to achieve greater things and greater heights in my career like I always say, in everything I do, I put God first and I know with God I can do all things with Christ who strengthens me so I know that I’m going to achieve greater heights in my career being a Paralympics champion and a world record holder.”