The U.S. Embassy Abuja played host to two American athletes and a coach under the U.S. Department of State’s Sports Envoy program. The envoys included Catherine Sellers, a Former High-Performance Director for the U.S. Paralympics Track and Field Program; Deja Young, a double goal medalist in sprints; and Dennis Ogbe, a star shot-putter. Their visit was coordinated in partnership with the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports and the Nigerian Paralympic Committee.
The envoys launched sports clubs in special schools in Abuja and Lagos, conducted coaching clinics for Paralympians and their coaches, and visited the Sports Minister to advocate for increased participation of persons with disability in sports.
While donating shot-puts to the Nigerian Paralympic Committee, Cultural Affairs Officer of the U.S. Embassy, Sterling Tilley, said the U.S. is committed to partnerships with sports bodies to explore opportunities and increased participation of persons with disability in sports, as well as to promoting peaceful co-existence among youths through sport.
In his remarks at the concluding program, U.S. Embassy Counselor for Public Affairs Aruna Amirthanayagam stated that “The program is designed to support sports – particularly to support the inclusion and rights of people living with disabilities. This is very important in the United States and I’m proud to say we are one of the countries that’s at the forefront of promoting sports worldwide for people with disabilities.”
He added that visits by American athletes and coaches involved in traditional and alternative sports is another way in which the embassy promotes engagement between Americans and Nigerians, and he advocated for the continued support of such programs.
The Sports Envoys also participated in panel discussions and conducted workshops and clinics to build the capacity of Nigerian Paralympic athletes and coaches in a variety of sports including Discus, Shot Put, Wheelchair Racing, and other Paralympic athletics.