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Could you introduce yourself?
My names are Monday Emoghrave. I hail from Abraka inn Ethiope LGA in Delta State. I am a triple Olympic Champion. I attended three Olympics where I set records in different categories. Apart from the Olympics, I attended so many other international competitions where I won gold medals. Throughout my active days, I never won anything less than gold in all my events. The first Olympic gold medal that came to this country was won by me at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. I won the medal on September 9. I was there at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics where I won gold. In fact I broke the record I set in 1992. At Sydney Olympics in 2000, I won another gold medal. There also, I set another world record.
When did you stop competing?
I honourably retired from active participation in powerlifting in 1992. I travelled out in 2002 and sustained a very serious injury. That was at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in England. When I returned to Nigeria, I had to spend so much money to treat myself. When I recovered from the injury, I was advised to quit.
What have you been doing now that you have retired?
On retirement, I took to coaching. But I started out as an officiating official. I was sponsored by the sports ministry to attend a coaching course at the National Institute for Sports in Lagos. At the completion of my course, I became a coach. FCT sports authorities then converted me from an athlete to a coach. I was working as head coach in FCT and I later moved to the national level as one of the coaches in powerlifting. Since then, I have been coaching the national team to international competitions where we have not fared badly.
Most physically challenged people prefer begging to other profitable ventures. What made you to embrace sports?
It may interest you to know that I was not born a disabled person. It happened to me when I was ten years old. And before the unfortunate incident, I used to engage myself in athletics. Thus, when I became a disabled person, I felt so bad. For instance, during my secondary school days, I used to feel really sad when my mates were taken out for Physical Education which we normally called P.E. I was not allowed to join them because I couldn’t walk. It made me feel really sad. Thus, when I travelled to Lagos, where I worked in a rehabilitation centre as a shoe maker, the whites who were there to contribute to the development of the centre, showed us how the disabled abroad took to sports. The films we watched spurred us into embracing sports. It was from there that disabled sports started in Nigeria.
Before now, you were an athlete. In your active days, were you very satisfied with the treatment you and your colleagues got from sports authorities?
I cannot say we were given fair treatment. Our able bodied got a better deal. Whenever we travelled abroad, we were paid only twenty dollars while the able bodied athletes got fifty dollars. And when our money was increased to fifty dollars, they were paid one hundred dollars. Even at that we were still happy with the little we got. We considered it to be enough motivation for us to put in our best.
It is usually said that physically challenged athletes are hard to satisfy. Now that you are in charge, how are you going to ensure a harmonious relationship with your colleague?
Actually, I used to criticize other leaders and I know that now it’s my turn to prove my mettle. It is either I do well or I will be criticized. Most of the physically challenged were responsible for my emergence as president of the committee. They believe I can do the job. My major area of concern will be the welfare of disabled athletes in the country. When I travelled to Egypt in 1991 for the All Africa Games, I took pains to travel round the city of Cairo and I did not see a single disabled person begging on the streets. I later learnt that it was a result of the collaboration between the ministry of social welfare and that of sports. They came together to enhance the welfare of the disabled people in that country. Now that I have this opportunity, I intend to set up a committee that will look into the welfare of paralympians.
The problem most sports federations face is funding. Considering the apathy of most corporate bodies to sports sponsorship, how do you hope to raise funds to run the committee?
This is going to be a serious challenge. I am going to meet most of the corporate bodies and other sports philanthropists who have been sponsoring the able bodied athletes to extend their hand of assistance to us. We would convince them by explaining to them why a physically challenged person who needs more assistance should be encouraged to excel in his chosen career. For being courageous enough to do what they are doing, the disabled deserve to be encouraged. Our expectation is that the money that is budgeted by such organizations for sports should be split into two- for the physically fit and the physically challenged. In addition, we intend to visit the state governors, especially those from the north so that they can willingly release money for disabled sports.
During your inauguration, your committee was charged to come up with additional sports.What efforts are you making in this direction?
Elsewhere in the world, there are so many sports for the disabled. However, in Nigeria, it is only three sports for the disabled that are well develop, that is powerlifting, table tennis and athletics. We are also making efforts to develop other sports for the disabled. We are thinking about ground volleyball, basketball, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair lawn tennis, and swimming for the disabled. There are usually lots of medals to be won in swimming for the disabled. We hope to introduce swimming to people of the South-South, South-West and South –East. This is where journalists will come in. They will have to assist us by publicizing some of the sports we are going to introduce. But I must tell you that the reason why some of these sports are not fully developed is that disabled sports are capital intensive. We would therefore need unflinching support from government at all levels.
How prepared are you to play the international politics that come with participation in activities the International Paralympics Committee,IPC?
On the international stage, I was an active player even when I was not the president of the committee. Like I told you earlier on, I actively participated in the election that produced the first president of the International Powerlifting Committee. Now that I am on ground as president I should be able to play the politics especially on the continent of Africa. It may interest you to know that Egypt is wielding so much power because of her strategic position. They dictate what happens to disabled sports in Africa. This is exactly what I want for Nigeria. I will fall back on my international experience to fight for the rights of my colleagues.
A tree cannot make a forest. How committed are your other colleagues on the board?
I am proud of the committee. I can work with them because they are all graduates of university of excellence and greatness. They are highly successful people who wouldn’t want to fail in this responsibility. So I will not be alone in this struggle.
Are you very satisfied with the number of the physically challenged on the committee?
The committee is made up of fifteen members. Out of the fifteen, there are eight physically challenged people most of whom are ex-international athletes. This means we are going to take our fate in our own hands. It is going to be a harmonious working relationship between us and the able bodied members of the committee. We would not fail because we don’t want to fail.