There are few countries in the world that come close to having the level of sustained dominance Nigeria enjoys in Para Powerlifting. There is a reason the World Para Powerlifting Federation describes Nigeria as “home to several of the world’s strongest powerlifters”. Ever since the 1992 Barcelona Paralympics where Monday Emoghawve won gold in the 48kg class, Nigeria has exerted a level of dominance and bagged an unending wave of medals – gold, silver and bronze – every year in major Para Powerlifting competitions across the world.
This level of sustained dominance has come about not only because the country has been blessed with some of the greatest Para Powerlifters the world has ever seen but also because the Nigeria Para Powerlifting Federation has over the years, perfected the very delicate art of interspersing new talent with established world beaters in the national team.
As Nigeria gears up to welcome Para athletes from all over the world to Lagos 2019 – the first ever international Para Powerlifting event to be hosted in the country – there is a general if unspoken acknowledgement that with the likes of Kehinde Paul, Bose Omolayo, Lucy Ejike, Loveline Obiji, Roland Ezuruike, Ben Nsimi, Ishiaku Ruel, Ibrahim Olaitan, Ibrahim Abdulazeez, Nwosu Ndidi, Oluwafemiayo Folashade, Latifat Tijani and Nnamdi Innocent flying the nations flag, a sizable percentage of the 20 gold medals on offer are all but accounted for.
But behind the glare of intimidating star power arising from the aforementioned world beaters, lies a number of relative newcomers caught in the shadows but possessing the talent and will to shine just as bright as their more illustrious peers when their chance comes.
Two such athletes bursting at the seams to make their mark are Esther Nworgu and Loveth Aboki who, although competing in different weight classes, are united by a singular dream – becoming champions and household names at this Championship.
“My goal and my dream is to be the number one in the world in [the] 41kg [class],” Nworgu says.
“I’m looking to be the best out of the best,” Aboki declares. “My target for this international championship is to be a gold medallist and also to be the world record holder and to also make my country proud,” she adds.
It will all come down to how they perform at the championships which will hold between 28 – 30 January at the Oriental Hotel and although they both have an opportunity of making their dreams come true and are propelled by a burning desire to make a name for themselves and honour their country, both athletes acknowledge that the journey to being Para powerlifters has been far from an easy ride. From having to deal with family reservations to discouragement from friends, both athletes have had to exhibit steely resolve to overcome obstacles and constantly prove themselves to get to this point in their careers.
“I have experienced sometimes hardships sometimes like presently now, everything is working for good,” Nworgu who competes in the 41kg class and started powerlifting in 2016 told busybuddiesng.com.
“It’s not easy for a family to leave a female child most especially when you mention the name ‘weights’ everything about them would be like she’s going to turn to a man; she’s going to look muscular and she would no longer become a woman and some of them will be at your neck; you will not do this you will not do this and most of your friends will [discourage] you.
“[But] I think determination is the key thing there. When you yourself determine to do it and they see the zeal in you, they have no other option than to leave you to do it,” Nworgu who won a silver medal at the 2018 National Sports Festival in Abuja says about the challenges she has had to overcome.
Aboki’s experience is similar to Nworgu’s and although both athletes would be competing in their first ever international championships, the Edo state born Aboki has been around for longer having started out in 2011. Her career, she says had been “off and on” because she took out time to focus on her education which she has now completed graduating with a degree in Religious Management and Cultural Studies from the Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma.
Aboki who competes in the 45kg class and has won medals at the Okpekpe championships (Gold) and two National Sports Festivals in 2012 (Silver) and 2018 (Gold) recognises that success doesn’t come easy and says perseverance and determination are two basic requirements she needs to get to the level of her teammates who have become household names and world beaters.
“The road to success has not been easy,” she says. “If you want to climb a ladder you climb it step by step one after the other, so those people at the top today didn’t just wake and reach there, they passed through [a] long process. So when you want to achieve in life you have to be determined, so when you have [the] determination and you set a goal for yourself definitely you must actually actualise your dream.”
With the steely disposition and single-mindedness they’ve both shown in coming this far, it wouldn’t be in the least surprising that come the end of the championships when the roll call of champions is called, they both will be mentioned in the same breath as their more illustrious teammates who have yet again, perpetuated Nigeria’s dominance at an international Para powerlifting championship.