Here is a moving story of a Nigerian who survived two rare and aggressive cancers and is enthusiastic about representing his fatherland at the forthcoming 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia.
Seun Adebiyi, Esquire is a graduate of Yale Law School and practicing lawyer, as well as a 2014 Winter Olympic contender. Born in Ilorin, Nigeria, Seun moved to the United States at age 6 to begin training in the sport of swimming. By age 14, he was the 4th ranked swimmer in America for his age group, but missed the 2000 Olympics due to a back injury.
Despite top-8 finishes for Nigeria at the 2003 All-Africa Games in Abuja and 2004 African Continental Championships, Seun barely missed the 2004 Olympics by 0.1 seconds. Undeterred, he is now training to become part of the first Nigerian delegation ever to compete in the Winter Olympic. His new sport, skeleton, is an 80 mph plunge down a mile-long ice chute...headfirst.
The most intriguing side to Seun's story is that in 2009, his Olympic quest was derailed by two rare and aggressive blood cancers: stem cell leukemia and lymphoblastic lymphoma. His survival hinged upon a stem cell transplant (which can cure over 70 diseases), but he was unable to find a matching bone marrow donor. In fact, only 17% of African-American patients ever find a match, and in Nigeria almost no one suffering from a blood disorder can receive a transplant due to lack of a donor registry.
However, he eventually received a transplant of his own when a Nigerian mother came to the U.S. and donated the umbilical cord from her healthy newborn. Completely cured and in remission for 3 years, Seun has resumed training for the 2014 Winter Olympic.
Despite the challenges being faced by the proposed Winter Sports Federation of Nigeria, Seun is confident that come 2014, he would fly the colours of his country of birth in Russia. However, the number one obstacle on his way is the alleged lack of interest in winter sports from the NSC.
Recently, the initiator of winter sports in Nigeria, Dr. Louis Obyo Nelson addressed a press conference in Abuja where he expressed total frustration in the hands of the NSc officials which he accused of deliberately working against his dream.
The proposed winter sports association has to be duly registered and recognized by the NSC before any Nigerian athlete would be allowed to compete internationally. At the moment, the association has not surmounted any of the numerous hurdles in its way but Seun is confident that there will be light at the end of the dark tunnel.
"I am now training again for the 2014 winter Olympic. If I make it to the Olympics, it will not only be as a proud Nigerian but also a cancer survivor. And to say to Nigerians who are dealing with the illness that it is not a death sentence. My mission is to create hope and awareness and to create the visibility of Nigeria in the global community so that Nigerians living abroad can feel a sense of responsibility to those Nigerians living at home.
"I want to compete for Nigeria and bring Nigerian flag into the Olympic stadium. It will increase the pride of Nigeria and the sense of national belonging. This will encourage other people to give more back to our country. With the help of Dr. Nelson I hope to represent Nigeria in the Winter Olympic.
"When I graduated from Law school I got a job but I felt that this mission is more important so had to resign. I have more time for training. My main mission is to train as hard as I can and qualify for the 2014 Winter Olympics and keep training hard until I win a medal for Nigeria in the winter Olympic", he assured.
Following the recent intervention of the Chairman of the House of Representatives committee on sports, Hon. Godfrey Ali Gaiya, the Winter and Extreme Sports Association of Nigeria may get the necessary recognition from the sports authorities in the country and Seun's dream of flying the colours of his fatherland in Russia may not be a pipe-dream after all.