NAIROBI – Kenyan athletes who practice wheelchair boxing having lost the use of their legs hope to fight for their country in the next Paralympic Games.
Paraboxing, a version of boxing for people with disabilities, is similar to the original sport, according to coach and former professional boxer, Daniel Oyombe, 58.
“The only difference is that these ones are sitting on wheelchairs,” Oyombe, a professional boxer until 1993 and now the Westie Paraboxing Club of Nairobi’s trainer, told EFE.
The club, which formed two years ago, has six members, including one woman. It trains at a basketball court twice a week, early in the morning before its members go to work.
“All of us we are friends,” said Cleantone Werema, member and chairman of the Kenya Paraboxing Federation. “But when we get on the ring for competitions we become very serious with the game, I don’t look at him as my friend, or him. We look at each other as opponents.”
Werema, 57, has been in a wheelchair since he was four after he contracted polio, a highly contagious virus that can cause paralysis. All his teammates, except for George Otito, also had polio.
Otito became confined to a wheelchair after cancer forced him to have to undergo a leg amputation.
Besides the dream of one day competing at the Paralympics – should the event take the sport into its fold – the boxers also hope to make the sport more popular nationally.
They have been touring the country in a bid to show others that wheelchair boxing can offer a way out of social exclusion.
According to Werema, the club shows families who look after someone with a disability a way for their children to go out into the world in a country where disabilities remain a social stigma and lead to isolation.
Coach Oyombe, whose brother had polio, trains the members as if they were professional boxers, without making any distinctions between them and able-bodied boxers he coaches.