Yesterday, Aliou Bawa, Togo’s lone Paralympian at the 2016 Summer Games, was busy training at Pavilion 5 at Riocentro in preparation for his time in the spotlight. He was supported his coach, Gneny Tchagbele, and Togo’s Paralympic attache Fidéle Mawuena. During the training session, the coach took numerous videos and pictures on his cell phone of Bawa lifting. Then Bawa and Tchagbele would review his form and repeat with the goal of improving it looking ahead to Thursday when the competition starts for Bawa.
Bawa’s participation is notable not only because he is his country’s sole representative, but also because he is his country’s first Paralympic competitor in the history of the Paralympic Games. He goes into competition looking to pick up a medal as a way to inspire other people with disabilities in his country. At home, he is referred to Adebayor. The nickname refers to Emmanuel Adebayor, Togo’s greatest sportsperson who played professional football for Arsenal and Tottenham in England. Bawa is quoted in an IPC press release as saying, “I love football and I would play if that was an option. But I really found myself in powerlifting. Hopefully, I will be as good in powerlifting as Adebayor playing soccer.”
Outside of sport, 32-year-old Bawa is a hairdresser. He has a disability as a result of contracting polio as an infant. In the past, he played wheelchair basketball.