Sports Features of Friday, 17 August 2012
Source: Theodore M.K. Viwotor (Multi Sports Columnist)
After a disappointing showing at the Olympic Games where none of Ghana’s nine (9) competitors was able to medal, attention now turns to the Paralympic Games, as able-bodied persons give way to Persons With Disability (PWDs) to showcase their talents.
From August 29 to September 9, the venue for this year’s Olympic Games in London would once again regain life after scintillating performances by the likes of Usain Bolt who made history in their chosen fields of sporting activities.
Unfortunately, it seems many Ghanaians are either ignorant of or unconcerned about the Paralympic Games or perhaps too disappointed in Ghana’s performance at the Olympic Games that they do not care what happens at this important event. Others might presume that, because it is for PWDs it is not as important as the main one. The presumption may stem from the general attitude towards issues affecting this category of persons.
The Paralympic Games are a major international multi-sport event where athletes with a physical disability compete; this includes athletes with mobility disabilities, amputations, blindness, and cerebral palsy. There are Winter and Summer Paralympic Games, which are held immediately following their respective Olympic Games. All Paralympic Games are governed by the International Paralympic Committee(IPC).
Ghana is taking part in this year’s Paralympic Games with four (4) athletes who are already in London preparing for the games to begin.
Paracyclist Alem Mumuni, Powerlifter Charles Narh Teye, Wheelchair Track athletes Raphael Nkegbe Botsyo and Anita Fordjour, are the persons Ghanaians are looking up to after seeing no medal come from their athletes at the Olympics. Of the four (4) only Raphael Botsyo has ever participated in the games but when it comes to achievements, they all stand tall in their various fields.
Alem Mumuni holds the record as three-time best Paracyclist in Africa in the C2 category; he successfully defended the title in Accra last year. His qualification to London 2012 makes him the first Ghanaian cyclist to have ever participated in the Olympic Games. Alem and a South African are the only two Africans in the C2 category taking part in the Paralympic Games. He is looking forward to registering Ghana’s name on medal table.
Charles Narh Teye made the qualifying mark after winning gold at the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Powerlifting Invitational Tournament in the United Kingdom earlier this year, as well as participating in a similar event in Dubai recently. He is a medal hopeful Ghanaians can look forward to for a medal or two.
Raphael Nkegbe Botsyo remains the only experienced Paralympian among the four (4) having been at the games on all two occasions Ghana took part (2004 and 2008). In 2004, he won three silver medals in the Dutch Open Championships and was selected to compete at the 2004 Athens Paralympic Games, becoming the first-ever Ghanaian to participate. He is expected to bring his experience to bear on the games and a medal may not be too much for him.
Anita Fordjour also remains a medal hopeful. Having brightened Ghana’s name at the All Africa Games in Maputo, Mozambique where she won bronze, Anita could as well replicate that feat in London though it is a much more difficult task; the competitors may be stronger and more experienced but Ghana can trust her to make a mark.
But, as preparations peak for the games, there seems to be more worries among people who have been following the athletes for some time now over their true preparedness towards the games, much as they appear ready. The four sportsmen have had to wait in London for Ghana to call camp because they were sent there earlier than the appointed time as a result of a sponsorship package from Right to Dream, an NGO.
It is an undeniable fact that, the seriousness other nations attach to the Olympic and Paralympic Games is not evident in Ghana’s attitude towards these important events on the international sports calendar. Preparations were not taken serious, together with commitment towards the welfare of athletes.
Allowances, per diems and other incentives for the sportsmen could not be disclosed early enough to motivate them to train hard and do their best to achieve the utmost.
Reminiscent of what happened to the Olympic athletes, the Paralympians might have to wait till all hopes are almost lost for some juicy incentives to be proposed, by which time the die would have been cast and their fate determined. The National Paralympic Committee (NPC) could have put these proposals before government long ago to give them the chance to assess it so as to make it available by now to the athletes.
The time to salvage the situation is now even though much has been allowed to go wrong, especially in the area of preparations and motivation. The sportsmen could be motivated at this moment to medal if they are promised a good package prior to camping and perhaps a clear indication of what they would get for winning a medal. It may be a little late but it is better late than never.
In spite of all these, the Para-athletes themselves have indicated their resolve to leave an indelible mark in history as they stand on the verge of setting records for Ghana. Conscious of the fact that winning a medal in these games makes them heroes, they have decided to put the discouraging circumstances behind them and are psyching themselves up for the historic moment.
Fortunately, they are making do with a few opportunities available to them in the United Kingdom to prepare adequately even when they don’t know the package available for them. True love for Mother Ghana! What better way to immortalize the name of ex-president Mills than to fight hard to win a medal and to dedicate it to his memory.
However, just like the Olympic Games, this year’s event should serve as an eye-opening lesson to change our fortunes in subsequent competitions.
Participation is good but winning medals is more prestigious and most importantly the reason for being there. The abysmal performance of the Olympians is leading to calls for a total overhaul of the entire Olympic set-up due to poor results over the past years. These calls, justified or not, need to wake the Ghana Olympic Committee (GOC) and National Paralympic Committee (NPC) up to begin looking and planning ahead.
The Olympic Games are no more fun, in view of the investment and interest being put into them by other countries and the international body; therefore, any country participating in them need to show extra commitment by investing resources into them to demonstrate that it is truly committed.
What is happening in our dear country smacks of lack of commitment and dedication to a noble cause, especially from the view point of disability sports.
In an earlier article, the need for a disability sports centre was stressed and action ought to be taken on it. It would take a long time to complete but it ought to start from somewhere and the time is now.
Ghana’s Olympic hopes now hang on the shoulders of these four Persons With Disability (PWDs) who have defied the odds of disability and are willing to do us proud when the whistle is blown for friendly hostilities to begin. They need prayers, financial and material support at this crucial moment.
Those of us who have followed them over the years can testify that they have the will power to get going even in the face of huge challenges, as they have demonstrated in major tournaments in the past. There is hope of Ghana winning its first Paralympic medal in London 2012 and the four would write their names in the annals of Ghana sports.
Even the sky cannot stop them as they turn disability into an asset.
The Writer is also the Administrative Secretary of the Ghana Amputee Football Federation as well as News Editor of the Daily Democrat