The Paralympic Movement is saddened by the loss of Nigerian Para badminton player Bello Rafiu Oyebanji, who had played a key role in the sport’s development in Africa.
Oyebanji was triple gold medallist at the 2018 African Para Badminton Championships. He died in a motor accident on 21 April.
A member of the Badminton World Federation (BWF) Para Badminton Athletes’ Commission since 2017, the Nigerian was determined to make history for his country and continent at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, where the sport will debut.
He competed in the standing lower (SL4) category and was preparing for the Spanish Para Badminton International on 11 May, which is the last qualification tournament for Tokyo 2020.
BWF President Poul-Erik Hoyer said: “Bello was a wonderful Para badminton player to watch and a great ambassador for our sport. His untimely death comes as a deep shock to the entire badminton family and my deepest sympathies are with his family and loved ones at this very difficult time.”
BWF Council Member and Para Badminton Athletes’ Commission Chair Richard Perot paid tribute to Oyebanji: “Bello was a skillful SL4 player, and multiple African champion. But above all he was an individual dedicated to training, coaching and promoting badminton for all.
“In one word, he was an inspiration to a lot of young Para athletes, not only in Nigeria but across all of Africa. He was so proud to be a BWF athlete representative from Africa, and was a real example of what an athlete can be off the field of play. I will miss him a lot. We will all miss him a lot.”
Taking up badminton 17 years ago with able-bodied players, Bello turned his attention to coaching in addition to playing.
Badminton Confederation Africa said in a statement: “Our sincere condolences to Bello’s loved ones and the whole badminton and Para badminton community in Nigeria. May his soul rest in peace.”