Paul Kehinde a Nigerian para-power lifter did not allow his deformity to deter him from achieving his set goal after his desire for education crashed following the death of his mother Folashade Kehinde in 2006. The stocky Lagos indigene went on to create a world record at the Brazil 2016 Paralympics after smashing the world record twice with a lift of 220kg. Kehinde broke his own record of 220kg with a lift of 220.5kg at the IPC Powerlifting World Championships held in Mexico in 2017 and went further to break his own world record of 220.5kg at the 2018 9th Fazza World Cup held in Dubai in February with a lift of 221kg. He spoke to our ADEOLU JOHNSON about life as a disabled person and many more issues. Excerpts…
What’s your background and how did you become deformed; was it from birth or by accident?
I am from Epe, Lagos State. I was born in 1988 to Mr and Mrs Afolasade Kehinde, a modest family. My mother told me that I became disabled around two or three years old when I started walking.
She said bad wind blew me and that was why I was unable to stand normally again. Because of this my mother had strong affection for me than my other siblings. She started catering for me more and was particular about my education. She used to spank me whenever I went to the street to play and lift irons, she used to tell me that playing truancy would worsen my condition and give me fever. When mother died in 2016 my education died and my life collapsed. Before her death she started encoraging me in the sport after seeing my performance.
Do you have any regrets becoming a special person despite the fact that you were born as a normal human being?
Yes I have a lot regrets. I have a lot because people see the disabled as beggars. They don’t want to associate with us because of our condition and to worsen the situation; they see disabled persons as those with disease and tend to look down on one particularly if one does not have money. Many people don’t see anything good in disabled people, they think we have disease, but I keep telling myself that I will battle the odds.
How did you become a power lifter and what was your mother’s reactions later and who influence you most?
I came into the sport when one Mr. Kehinde Adetayo took me to Coach Feyisetan Are at the National Stadium, Surulere. The Coach later on inspired me and kept telling me I could do it. Coach Are and his wife motivated me a lot. The coach is always telling us to believe in ourselves and that we can achieve anything. His words have always kept us going, even when things are tough. Whatever I achieve, I owe to God, my teammates, coaches and Nigeria.
Sometime he will give me his jerseys to wear as part of the encouragement. He will say each time I wear it, I will be a champion and this turn out to be so. I started the sport at the National Sports Festival in 2006, that is the Gateway Games and I excelled at the very first time and thereafter there was no looking back. I started at the international level in 2013 in Khazastan and later at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games where I won the gold medal in 2014 followed by the All Africa Games before I broke the world record at the Paralympics Games in Brazil in 2016. Thereafter I continued to break my world record until I reached 221 kg mark in Dubai in 2017 World Cup.
Could you reel out your achievements till date?
My achievements include 2011–World Championships silver medal, 2014- Commonwealth Games gold medal, 2015- Malaysia World Cup gold medal, 2015- All Africa Games gold medal and setting an African Record of 214 kg and 2016- Rio Paralympics- by breaking the World Record twice with lifts of 218 kg and 220 kg.
Others are at 2017- Mexico World Championships with gold medal with another World Record lift of 220.5 kg, 2018 -World Para-Power lifting Championships, Fazza, Dubia. Gold medal with record-breaking lift of 221 kg, 2018 Commonwealth Games, Gold Coast, Australia, silver medal in +65 kg Para-Power lifting, African Para-Power lifting Championships +65 kg gold medal and silver medal at in +65 2018- Nigerian National Sports Festival in Abuja
What is your target in the sport in nearest future?
My target in this sport now is to set a record that will be unbreakable in the next 10 or 20 years and I believe that with determination and the help of God, I will achieve it.
What about your marital status?
It is always difficult for disabled to have friends talk-less of having girlfriends who is not disabled for wives. But by the grace of God and through the dint of hard-work, I started courting my wife Eniola Kehinde who is an able bodied person in 2015, and in 2017 we got married and are blessed with two children Nathaniel a boy and Victoria a girl. We both live in Ketu, Alapere, from where we join the Rapid Bus Transport BRT to the Stadium to train every day. But today God has provided me with my own car, a new accommodation which makes things much easier for me.
Could you say something about your foundation?
I set up the Paul Kehinde Foundation in Nigeria. I have encouraged a lot of new powerlifting athletes. They are going to be tomorrow’s champions in Nigeria. We are disciplined, determined, and train hard, like there’s no tomorrow. Truly there is no excuse not to achieve your dreams. I always use myself as a case study to encourage others.
What should Nigerians expect from you at the next Paralympics in Tokyo, Japan, next September?
If we are well motivated and with the promise the Minister of Sports made to us, I will smash the world record by creating a new one that will last for a decade or more. My target in this sport now is to set a record that will be unbreakable in the next 10 or 20 years to come and I believe that with determination and the help of God, I will achieve it.