Now Azuegbulam is an African champion. Last month, Azuegbulam won gold in the Invictus Games in Dusseldorf, Germany — the first Nigerian and the first African to secure the top prize in the games.
Azuegbulam, 27, won gold in a powerlifting category, and also competes in sitting volleyball and other sports. It has been a painful journey for Azuegbulam.
In October 2020, he was part of an army unit fighting to dislodge jihadists in the northeast of Nigeria, where the military has been battling Islamist militants for more than a decade. Jihadists opened fire with an anti-aircraft gun, wounding Azuegbulam, and forcing doctors to amputate his leg.
With the help of local organisation Nigeria Unconquered, he started to become involved in sports recovery for wounded servicemen and veterans and eventually to a team heading to the Invictus Games in September.
Bobby Ojeh, director of Invictus in Nigeria, said Azuegbulam’s gold would bring hope to others and saw more African nations joining the event. Nigeria’s jihadist conflict in the north has killed more than 40,000 people and displaced more than 2 million more since 2009.
The country’s security forces are also battling bandit gangs and separatists in different parts of Nigeria. For Azuegbulam, originally from the southeast state of Imo, sports brought him back to life.
But he said he found more inspiration at Invictus Games from the support of other wounded servicemen and women. After gold at Invictus, the Nigeria champion said he intends to keep on with more sports competitions.