Samantha Davis
Wed, Sep 13, 2023 1:05 PM

Nigeria Makes Debut at Invictus Games: A Triumph Over Adversity

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Nigeria Makes Debut at Invictus Games: A Triumph Over Adversity
Nigeria joins the Invictus Games for the first time, offering participants who have experienced physical and mental trauma the opportunity to connect and find solace. Despite criticism regarding the event's cost and motive, team members see it as a chance for healing and camaraderie.

In their vibrant green team attire, Peacemaker Azuegbulam and his Nigerian teammates make their way through the bustling crowd at the Invictus Games. The grounds between the athletics stadium and the grand arena in Düsseldorf are filled with chattering school groups, Bundeswehr soldiers, and volunteers dressed in yellow. The atmosphere is lighthearted. The Africans frequently pause for selfies or brief conversations with participants from other nations. "It's exciting to be here. A beautiful experience," Azuegbulam tells DW. The 27-year-old won Nigeria's first gold medal in weightlifting the day before.

Nigeria, alongside Israel and Colombia, is participating in the Paralympic sports event for war veterans for the first time, where a total of 21 countries are represented. In 2014, Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, initiated the Games. "We're delighted to have these new nations join us," he said at the opening ceremony, playfully mentioning Nigeria due to his wife Meghan's Nigerian roots.

Azuegbulam, however, appears reserved and contemplative. "It's not easy," he describes his situation, sharing the story of his injury: In 2020, he was struck by heavy anti-aircraft ammunition while serving as a soldier during combat in northern Nigeria. His left leg was shattered, leaving him with no choice but to undergo amputation above the knee. "At that moment, I questioned why I was still alive. Some friends turned away from me. It was very difficult to come to terms with it."

Harrison Amuzie, Azuegbulam's teammate competing in shot put, table tennis, sitting volleyball, and archery in Düsseldorf, shares a similar experience: "My injury was my lowest point. I felt completely useless," he tells DW. In 2019, Amuzie suffered severe shoulder and thigh injuries during an attack on his unit and has been using a walking stick ever since. "The shame of having to move around on crutches all the time and being unable to do things I used to do anymore was traumatic."

Both Azuegbulam and Amuzie say that sports help them find their way back to life, both physically and psychologically. "I have trauma. Many thoughts weigh me down. Sometimes, I feel weak," emphasizes Azuegbulam. Participating in the Invictus Games gives him courage.

Critics argue that the Games require an enormous amount of resources for a relatively small number of participants, with the German Ministry of Defense alone providing around 40 million euros. Additional funding comes from major arms manufacturers such as Lockheed Martin and Boeing, acting as sponsors.

"By downplaying the consequences, the Invictus Games also downplay the wars themselves. Instead, it would be desirable to invest more money in disability sports and rehabilitation programs for people with trauma," criticizes Didem AydurmuÅŸ from the board of DIE LINKE. Federal Defense Minister Boris Pistorius (SPD), with regard to the German participants, counters: "What these men and women have done for us isn't in vain and should be duly appreciated," he said.

Such debates seem distanced from Harrison Amuzie. Amid the pounding bass in the athletics stadium, he sets aside his walking stick and takes a 7.25-kilogram iron ball for a practice shot. He is about to compete in the shot put final. 22 participants, including representatives from Poland, Georgia, the United States, and Ukraine, are taking part. However, Amuzie remarks that the competition is merely one aspect of his time in Düsseldorf. The biggest advantage is something else. "The Invictus Games are a place where we can come together and connect. Everyone here has made sacrifices for their country. We share the highs and lows." They have formed connections and intend to stay in touch, he shares.

Meanwhile, gold medalist Azuegbulam is immersing himself in the Düsseldorf experience and sharing it on his Instagram account. "I'm happy about my medal," he says, "but I also want to inspire other soldiers who have been injured. We all still have games to play and competitions to face."

Source of content: OOO News 2023-09-13 News

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