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Elated by Tokyo 2020 boost, Kehinde, Ejike want more support for para-athletes

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Nigeria’s world para-powerlifting champions, Paul Kehinde and Lucy Ejike, were at the weekend inducted into Team Citi, which is a diverse group partnering with Citi Bank as ambassadors to support global efforts for a more diverse, inclusive society and help change perceptions of persons with disabilities. They now join a list of 41 para-athletes, who will comprise “Team Citi” at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

Becoming members of Team Citi means the bank will support them at a number of para-events, which will culminate in the Tokyo 2020. The Team Citi Para-athletes, 19 men and 22 women aged 17 to 50, represent 20 countries and territories.

While speaking at their unveiling in a short ceremony in Lagos on Friday, Ejike said she was delighted to have a base for her training and competition going into the Olympics.

She added: “I am happy to be one of the 41 ambassadors of Citi Bank from across the world. I used to train on my own and only get government’s support when it remains a few months to major competitions. But now that I have Citi Bank as my sponsor, Tokyo 2020 will be one of the best games I have ever been in.

“This is different because other organisations only wait for when you are successful to identify with you. Citi Bank is the first sponsors to come to us before a competition; they are here at the point of our need, which is the best time to identify with an athlete.”

On her expectations at the Tokyo 202 Games, Ejike said featuring at the World Championships in Kazakhstan has shown her what to expect at the Olympics, adding that she now knows how to prepare to win the gold medal and also set multiple world records in Japan.

She also called on the government and other corporate organisations to take a cue from Citi Bank, saying, “when an athlete is training and knows that there are other needs he has to attend to, his troubles will disturb his training and subsequently his performance at the championships. If your bank account is empty, you will not have the peace needed to train and excel in major championships.”

Ejike is a five-time Paralympian and world record holder since 2000.

Also thrilled by the Citi Bank support, Kehinde, also a world record holder, who promised to double his efforts to repay the sponsorship, adding that being among the chosen 41 is an impetus to dominate his sport at all levels.

“I will let them know that their efforts will not be in vain,” he said. “There is no going back now that I have this type of support. This is the first time in my life that a big organization is identifying with me and I promise to make them proud.”

Speaking on the decision to add Kehinde and Ejike to Team Citi, the firm’s Executive Director, Mrs. Nneka Enwereji, disclosed that Citi has a history of supporting the Paralympic Movement, starting with Team USA in 2012.

“Through our partnership with the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), we are committed to changing the conversation around disability so that these athletes can be defined by their heart and strength, not their supposed limitations. The dedication and passion of Lucy and Kehinde, as well as other para-athletes inspire us to be at our best as we at Citi help our clients to achieve their own business and personal goals, and enable progress in their communities.”


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