Special Olympics: Success and joy for Victor Tinubu

It was celebration time in the UAE for Victor Tinubu, who suffers from Down’s Syndrome — the Nigerian won the unified mixed basketball gold at the World Games.

Nnabeze Micheal Ani (left) and Victor Tinubu at the Special Olympic World Games on Wednesday. Photo: Stan Rayan

Victor Tinubu’s parents were probably not comfortable having him around. Or probably they did not know how to handle him.

“[Tinubu] has Down’s Syndrome, his parents dumped him, they threw him away in some school,” said Nnabeze Micheal Ani, the coach of the Nigerian mixed basketball team at the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

When Nnabeze, a Nigerian who plays professional basketball in Germany, was hunting for talent in special schools in Lagos, he heard about Tinubu’s story and he wanted to help him. “I picked him last year and started training him in basketball,” said Nnabeze, who is now a German citizen.

‘Happy’

That changed the 18-year-old Victor’s life. “Now he is so happy, he is in the World Games, seeing a lot of people and seeing himself playing basketball.”

It was celebration time for Victor in the UAE for he is a member of the Nigerian team that won the unified mixed basketball gold at the World Games.

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So how did Nnabeze, who now also works as an industrial mechanic in Hannover, develop an interest on these special athletes. “I find it more and more interesting to take care of them because the part of the world that I come from in Africa, this is taboo. In some parts, they don’t believe they should be existing,” he said.

‘Lovely people’

“But these athletes are lovely people, they are natural. They believe, no matter what, that they’re like us. We need to give them love, we need to accept them and give them equal opportunities.”

Incidentally, Thursday is World Down’s Syndrome Day.

In sharp contrast to Victor’s life, there is a Mexican family at the Games which has done its best to encourage their son Jesus Amador Arroyo, who has Down’s Syndrome, too. With his father, mother and brother wearing customised t-shirts which said, ‘papa de Jesus’, ‘mama de Jesus’ and ‘hermano de Jesus’ on the back, the family was the cynosure here.

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“We just want to show our support to my brother Jesus who is competing in equestrian. And ‘hermano’ means brother in Spanish,” explained Gustavo Arroyo, Jesus’ elder brother, a decent footballer.

When Jesus was young, his parents tried everything to bring him out of his shell. “We had physiotherapy; later a coach suggested equestrian. So, my dad said, ‘why not’. Now, he is doing a lot of competitions.”

And despite the horses being stronger and more powerful than the ones he is used to back home, Jesus won the dressage silver at the Games.