In a remarkable journey, Peacemaker Azuegbulam, who lost his left leg during a Boko Haram attack on his Nigerian army unit three years ago, has now become an African champion. Azuegbulam made history by winning the gold medal at the Invictus Games held in Dusseldorf, Germany, becoming the first Nigerian and African athlete to claim the top prize in the prestigious competition.
Speaking to AFP in Abuja-Nigeria, Peacemaker Azuegbulam expressed his elation, saying, “I feel great to become the first champion in Invictus Games from Africa. Invictus means unconquered, and we are still unconquered because we are still alive.” The Invictus Games, founded by Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, in 2014 as a means of supporting the rehabilitation of wounded servicemen and women through sports, now features the participation of 23 nations across a range of sports disciplines, including weightlifting, volleyball, and table tennis.
At 27 years old, Peacemaker Azuegbulam secured the gold medal in the powerlifting category and also competes in sitting volleyball and other sports. His journey to victory has been marked by hardships, with the leg amputation being a consequence of sustaining injuries from an anti-aircraft gun fired by jihadists during a mission in northeastern Nigeria in October 2020. Reflecting on the challenges he faced, Azuegbulam shared, “After being injured, I went through a lot emotionally, physically, and mentally. I was not myself, and it was very tough.”
With the support of the local organization Nigeria Unconquered, Peacemaker Azuegbulam embarked on a path of sports recovery for wounded servicemen and veterans, ultimately leading him to join the team representing Nigeria in the Invictus Games held in September. Bobby Ojeh, the director of Invictus in Nigeria, expressed that Azuegbulam’s gold medal triumph would inspire hope in others and encourage more African nations to participate in the event.
Nigeria’s ongoing conflict with jihadists in the northern region has resulted in the loss of over 40,000 lives and the displacement of more than 2 million people since 2009. The country’s security forces also face the challenges of combating bandit gangs and separatist movements in different parts of Nigeria. For Peacemaker Azuegbulam, originally from the southeastern state of Imo, sports became a catalyst for his recovery and rejuvenation. “I am recovered now, and it is due to sports. There is nothing more powerful than seeing yourself doing something,” he affirmed.
The Invictus Games provided Peacemaker Azuegbulam with additional inspiration through the camaraderie and support he received from fellow wounded servicemen and women. “I have new friends now, I have a new family that can encourage me, advise me, and provide the support I need,” he expressed gratefully. Following his success at the Invictus Games, the determined Nigerian champion expressed his intention to continue competing in sports and pursue further sporting achievements. “As it stands now, I am ready. I have the ability to excel in any sport. I am even ready for the Olympics,” he confidently stated. Azuegbulam’s unwavering dedication to sports and his pursuit of victory remain steadfast as he aims to keep competing and emerge triumphant in future endeavors.