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27.08.2021 Extra SPOTLIGHT: Latifat Tijani, Nigeria’s Paralympic Gold Winner Who Keeps Showing ‘Black People are Not Evil’

Published 27th Aug, 2021

By Tola Owoyele

On Thursday, Latifat Tijani won Nigeria’s first gold medal at the ongoing Tokyo Paralympic Games by lifting 107kg to beat China’s Zhe Cui, who came second.

Tijani told pressmen she was glad to have won the medal. She also dedicated it to her coach. With this feat, she made good the promise she made in 2016 after winning silver at the tournament.

Born on November 8, 1981, Tijani began powerlifting in 2004 to become a champion. Despite suffering a polio attack at an early age, Tijani embraced positivism and went about her business.

POWER LIFTING CAREER

Tijani at Rio 2016

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After many attempts, Tijani got her first opportunity to represent Nigeria at the 2015 All African Games in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, where she won a bronze medal at the women’s 45kg powerlifting event.

The following year, at the Rio Paralympic Games, she improved on her past performance at the All African Games, to win a silver medal.

Three years later, at the 2019 World Para Powerlifting Championships in Kazakhstan, she won the bronze medal at the women’s 45 kg event.

LOST BUT FOUND HOPE

Latifat Tijani

On October 5 2016, Tijani received N1,000,000 and traning kits donation from Ibikunle Amosun, the then Governor of Ogun State, as an appreciation of her efforts at the Rio Paralympic Games.

Amosun described Tijani as a worthy ambassador who had done the country proud, challenging her to win gold at the next Paralympic games.

In her reaction, Tijani said: “I thank the governor for this honour, which has been bestowed upon me today. I had earlier lost hope in sports, but the good God has revived that hope with my invitation to the national camp and my performance at the Paralympics.

“Now, I know I still have a bright future in sports and I will continue to work harder to improve on my performance and to ensure that I return with a gold medal at the next Paralympics.”

A PROFESSIONAL HAIRDRESSER

Tijani at Rio 2016

While representing Nigeria at the 2019 World Para Powerlifting Championships in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, Tijani put a smile on the face of a fellow competitor from UAE by helping her make her hair.

“I was in the toilet when I heard her complaining that she needed a hairdresser. I told her that I could help, and convinced her that I was a professional hairdresser,” recalled.

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“She was initially surprised and wondered how that could be possible. She explained the style that she wanted and we later exchanged hotel room addresses.”

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Latifat-Tijani-2.jpg

“After my training, I went to her room and assisted her. Though she offered me money, I didn’t collect it. My aim for helping was not to collect money. I only wanted to make a point that black people are not evil.

“I tried to promote relationships between us and I was happy that I did that. The accolade I got from other colleagues were enough for me.”

Tijani has a saloon where she made hair for her customers when she was not going for tournaments, or engaged in any competition.

“I learnt hairdressing, and that is my profession,” she said. “It is what I do for a living when I am not competing.”

Published 27th Aug, 2021

By Tola Owoyele

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