MOSCOW, Russia (20 June, 2014) – A Ghanaian athlete preparing for the upcoming 5th World Para-Taekwondo Championships here in Moscow has an inspirational message for disabled people internationally.
“To all my disabled friends all over the world, taekwondo is beautiful, taekwondo is sweet,” said Sharon Akewi, 30.” If you are a disabled person like me, don’t sit in your room, don’t lock the door, come into taekwondo, you will have a great opportunity.”
He should know. Akewi lost two fingers of his right hand at the age of 25, but that did not keep him from the sport he has loved since the age of 12.
“My master came to visit me in the hospital and motivated me to never give up, to keep practicing.” After one year of rehab, he did exactly that. “If you love it, no predicament is going to make you stop what you love to do,” he added.
Now a taekwondo coach himself, Akewi was in Moscow with buddy John Bodu, 25. Bodu lost his right arm in an accident at age 14, but took up disabled football and para-cycling before being introduced to taekwondo by Akewi. The two are both attending their first para-taekwondo championship – and both are confident.
“I know the sky will not be the limit,” said Bodu, who has medaled for Ghana in other para-sports. “I want to do the same for taekwondo, I want to be the world’s best!”
They have their sights set on gold, which they hope to win not just for Ghana, but for “Africa as a whole.” They also have aspirational sporting benchmarks, which they hope will elevate their chosen game into the big leagues.
“Just like you have world-class players – Messi or Ronaldo in football, Pacquiao or Mayweather in boxing– we hope taekwondo is going to be lifted up to that level,” said Akewi. “When you hear about world champions, you will hear about Sharon Akewi and John Bodu! You make the name, you make the fame, you make the money.”
Even so, however hard they fight on the mats, the two know they face another struggle back home – the struggle against prejudice.
“In Ghana, it is not easy to have this hand and say you want to train someone,” said Akewi. “In Ghana it is very hard to do disabled sports,” added Bodu. “They normally take care of able-bodied sports, but not disabled sports.”
And they both note a lack of financial support – they are “financially disabled” as Akewi puts it – and suffer from a dearth of training equipment such as uniforms and protective gear. Both made pleas for philanthropists to step in an assist the sport in their country and across the African continent.
Given this, they both hope for a strong public reception when the games begin on Saturday.
“Disabled sports is like able-bodied sports,” said Bodu, adding that he hopes for strong crowd support, “… to boost our morale so we can do something for the nation.“