The new Women’s Para Powerlifting World Record (WR) holder, Esther Oyema, and Commonwealth GOLD medallist, Roland Ezuruike, want an audience with President Muhammadu Buhari after winning titles on Day 6 of the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia.

Oyema, who lifted 131kg in the women’s Lightweight final to set a new WR, said that meeting President Buhari will be a dream come true.

She said: “I feel so excited because it was like a film to me. I was anxious about winning GOLD at the Commonwealth Games because after the Paralympic Games in Rio, I went to rest. I had to start the process of cutting down on my body weight because I was already in the Heavyweight class and I knew I needed a lot of hard work to shed about 10kg.

“My coach Pat Ibite encouraged me, so I started training for it. If I didn’t work on my body weight, I wouldn’t have set a new WR today. Today I have made sacrifices to make my country proud. I have won GOLD and set a third WR. I will like to meet President Muhammadu Buhari and I want him to make us proud too.”

Oyema said that one of the greatest challenges of physically challenged athletes was lack of recognition despite setting WRs, and called on the President to pat them on the back accordingly.

“Most of us are well educated but we can’t find a good job because of our physical challenges. I do this competition with passion because I love what I’m doing. Today, everybody wants to felicitate with us but after the Games, we will be forgotten. We are not recognized despite being No.1 in the world in Para Powerlifting.

“There are so many of us on the streets out there looking for food to eat. They are Paralympic and World champions, but nobody knows them anymore because they are no longer competing, so I want the President to recognize us and put us in the right position. If it were the able bodied athletes that set three WRs, I know what would be happening now, so I want the President to reward me as a woman, a fighter and a winner because after this, we don’t have anything to fall back on”, she added.

Similarly, GOLD medallist in the men’s Lightweight class, Roland Obumneke Ezuruike also expressed happiness, not only for winning the GOLD medal, but for beating his friend and WR holder Paul Kehinde.

“It’s an honour for me to beat a World Champion. He is one of the greatest in Powerlifting. He beat me in the last Commonwealth Games and I defeated him in this year’s. I’m happy not just because of the GOLD medal, but the person I beat.”

Ezuruike expressed optimism that they will be received this time around, following their success at the Games.

“What they expected from us, we have given it to them, and I know that Mr. President will do something for us. Sports is all about encouragement and motivation. I think we have given them our best and we are expecting from them. I have finished my part and I want our dear President to invite us to Aso Villa for a reception. That is my dream.”

Lucy Ejike who won Silver behind the new WR holder Oyema also expressed her desire to see Mr. President.

“I want President Buhari to welcome us because it is always good when somebody does a great job and you welcome the person. It gives the person motivation and encouragement to continue the work, so I will like him to give us official handshake and award when we come back.”

Nigeria leapt to the 9th position on the Commonwealth Games medals table on Tuesday after winning four GOLD and two Silver medals in Para Powerlifting.

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Yemi Olus is a Senior Sports Writer and Editor at Making of Champions. She has a bias for Athletics and was previously a Sports Reporter at the National Mirror, where she hosted a weekly column ‘On the Track with Yemi Olus’ for over two years. A self-acclaimed ‘athletics junkie’, she has covered national and international events live, such as the African Athletics Championships, African Games and IAAF World Championships. She has also freelanced for the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) and currently hosts a weekly Track and Field column in the Vanguard Newspaper.

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