By Gowon Akpodonor
Host, Lagos State, has emerged winner at the maiden Southwest Para-athletics championship, which ended at the weekend.
Team Lagos athletes raked in 39 medals at the three-day regional event, which held at the mainbowl of Teslim Balogun Stadium, Surulere, Lagos State.
Team Lagos grabbed nine gold,15 silver and 15 bronze medals, while Ogun was placed second with seven gold, seven silver and three bronze medals. Oyo State finished third with five gold, two silver and one bronze medal. Ondo had four gold and three silver medals, just as Ekiti got three gold and one silver medal. Osun state settled for three silver and two bronze medals.
The competition aimed at supporting people living with disabilities, especially at the grassroots level.
Speaking at the closing ceremony, Executive Chairman, Lagos State Sports Commission, Sola Aiyepeku, revealed that the idea is about inclusion of all in sports saying: “We brought in the women, now we have stepped up by making sure that the physically challenged have their own platforms. This is just the first.”
He continued: “This is a clear statement from Lagos State showing that, it is not only about getting reward, but also giving them the regular competitions so that they can improve and do it better for Nigeria.”
On his part, the Director General, Lagos State Sports Commission, Oluwatoyin Gafaar, said: “The initiative is in line with the “THEMES” agenda of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, which include bringing both male and female, able and physically challenged athletes, for sports development.
He stated that to develop sports in Lagos state and the Southwest, Lagos needs to take the lead role, which is the reason for the maiden Southwest regional championship.
“Able athletics event was held recently, and engaging our physically challenged athletes is a way of preparing them for better outings and a better tomorrow. Apart from the financial gains, they needed to get prepared, active and, it will also contribute to their healthy living.”
The chairman, Lagos State Para-athletics Association, Rafiu Olawale Etti, stated that the motive of the competition was to create an enabling environment for the athletes to showcase their talents, and to encourage mass participation of people living with disabilities in sports.
It is also to contribute to the development of para sports, as an alternative means of sustaining the livelihood for persons living with disabilities.