This is the homework from Week 2 of my Journalism course. I haven’t had the feedback back from my tutor yet, but I don’t think it’s going to be good! 😦 For starters, I got the word count totally wrong – it should have been only 250 words, but I wrote over 550 (oops!). I also feel a bit like a naughty schoolgirl as I must confess to doing it in a rush! The task this week was to write a profile of someone I admire, so I wrote about the wheelchair basketball player, Ade Adepitan.
If, like me, you were engrossed in last year’s Paralympic Games, you will not be unfamiliar with Adedoyin “Ade” Adepitan, the former wheelchair basketball champion who has become one of the ‘faces’ of British paralympic sport.
Nigerian-born Ade was just 6 months old when he contracted poliomyelitis, an incurable infectious viral disease that can cause muscle weakness and paralysis. In Ade’s case, he was left completely unable to use his left leg, and had limited use of his right leg.
Having made the difficult decision to leave friends, family and their home town of Lagos behind, the Adepitan family emigrated to the UK, settling in London where they believed the opportunities for Ade’s care and development would be far better than in Nigeria. Sure enough, rather than being resigned to a life of wheeling the streets on a makeshift skateboard like his fellow polio sufferers in Africa, in London Ade learned to walk with the use of leg calipers, and at twelve years old he was introduced by his physiotherapist to wheelchair basketball.
Ade’s story would be incredible even if I left it there. The uprooting of a whole family – one with a disabled young child, no less – from troubled, dictator-led Nigeria to the East End of London is quite something, but for that young disabled boy to go on to discover sport, and be exceptionally good at it, is a truly heartwarming tale.
Ade travelled to Zaragoza in Spain where he played professional wheelchair basketball for two years. He was then selected to play for Great Britain in the 2000 Sydney Paralympics, and again at the 2004 Athens Games, where he achieved his dream of winning a gold medal.
As incredible as these achievements are, there is more to Ade Adepitan than a wheelchair and a paralympic gold. He has also been able to leverage his disability and celebrity status to provide valued support for a number of charities, including Go Kids Go, Scope, the NSPCC and WheelPower. Far from being simply a figurehead, his passion and commitment to improving the lives of disabled children goes beyond just putting his name to a charity – he actively takes part in awareness campaigns and fundraising. In a recent television documentary, “Journey of my Lifetime”, Ade travelled back to his native Nigeria to help raise awareness of the sadly increasing problem of polio infection.
Along with Afghanistan and Pakistan, Nigeria remains one of only three countries in the world where polio has not been eradicated. In the heartbreaking programme, Ade explained that although the disease is entirely preventable and an effective vaccine is widely and freely available, Nigeria hosts a number of influential and often violent Islamic extremist groups who perpetuate a conspiracy theory that “white medicine” is dangerous and anti-Muslim. Rallying together with Nigerian polio sufferers, Ade led a potentially life-threatening march through the streets of some of the towns and villages where vaccine uptake is lowest and successfully encouraged a number of families to vaccinate their children. In doing so, he instantly saved those children from a potential life of disability and difficulty, and no doubt helped many others to realise that polio vaccination is the only way to guarantee prevention of the disease.
Ade Adepitan is a truly remarkable man who thoroughly deserves the MBE he was awarded in 2005 in recognition of not only his sporting endeavours, but his humantarian ones too.
During the last Journalism lesson, we were tasked to rewrite our homework articles (which should have been less than 250 words!) in half as many words. I didn’t quite get down to 125 words, but didn’t think I did too bad a job to cut my article down from 550+ to just over 200! Here’s version two:
Nigerian-born wheelchair basketballer Ade Adepitan was six months old when he contracted the incurable virus poliomyelitis and lost the use of his legs.
The Adepitan family left Nigeria and settled in London. Here, instead of using a makeshift skateboard like many polio sufferers in Africa, Ade had the opportunity to play professional wheelchair basketball.
He was selected to play for Great Britain in the 2000 Sydney Paralympics and went on to win a gold medal at the 2004 Athens Games.
Leveraging his disability and celebrity status, Ade supports charities for disabled children. In the documentary, “Journey of my Lifetime”, he helped raise awareness of the increasing polio infections in Nigeria.
Despite the availability of a free and effective vaccine,Nigeria remains one of only three countries where polio has not been eradicated. In the documentary, Ade explained that Nigeria hosts influential extremist groups who perpetuate a theory that “white medicine” is dangerous.
He led a march through some areas where vaccine uptake is lowest and encouraged families to vaccinate their children. In doing so, he saved those children from potential disability and helped dispel myths about polio.
Ade Adepitan is a remarkable man who deserves his 2005 MBE awarded in recognition of his sporting and humanitarian endeavours.