Yakubu Olaide Adesokan a.k.a Agbarapo, once queried God why he was born as a cripple. Today, he is thanking heavens for his case, believing that his physical form has challenged him to become world record holder of Commonwealth and Olympic height. The father of three from Aresa Compound of Ibadan City reveals many interesting sides of his life to Tribunesport's Niyi Alebiosu and Dipo Ogunsola.
You have suddenly become so elusive, is it because you are now richer or carried away by the national honour, money and the paralympic gold? Why don’t you pick your calls again?
Not at all. I remain the same person but a lot of people do not understand that it is pretty difficult to respond to the numerous phone calls I receive daily since I returned from London. Most of the time, I’m on the wheel and you know with my condition, I use one hand on the steering on the other pressing the throttle or applying the breaks so it is difficult driving and receiving telephone calls at the same time. Most of the time, I ask the fellow sitting beside me to pick the calls on my behalf and ask the caller to ring me later. Not everybody takes this in good faith while some people insinuate 'now that he is now an MON, he doesn't answer calls again.
Apart from violating driving code, by my special condition, it is difficult to pick all phone calls.
How has the pressure been from families and well-wishers since your world-record breaking performance at London 2012 paralympics? I wonder how you know about what I got through daily?
It has been very difficult staying focused since my return from the Olympics. At home, on the streets, people mill around me, some to show appreciation for what I have done, others for what they hope to get from me. I am yet to get enough rest.
From those who expect you to hand out, do you notice a feeling of disappointment from those who think they should have got more from you?
Actually those who feel disappointed show it openly even without uttering their complaint. One cannot satisfy everybody but I do try even till today to do my best especially those who live around my shoe repair workshop. I think if I could satisfy 80% of people who expect goodies from me, then I have tried. People should know that sport does not last. If you’re not injured, your performance level can drop but some people don’t care about achievement. Two top journalists and a photographer from Tribune are now on me. How do you think this happen? It is because I am successful and I have to remain focused to sustain my relevance.
It is said that you like women a lot and that you marry a new wife after every successful outing. Is this true?
I am married to just one wife but I must confess that I love women a lot. I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, so women are the only pleasure I have. Even at that, I have to be sensible because I have to maintain my fitness and abstain from sex for a lengthy period of time. Sometimes my wife complains about this. I tell people that the period you devote to training and abstain from sex is shorter than the one you have to enjoy yourself, so why not stay focused? When I was preparing for the 2012 paralympics, I abstained from sex for four months. We spent two months in South Korea, one month in London training camp and one month at the competition proper.
Getting back home after four months of abstinence, with an Olympic gold medal and a world record in the kitty, your wife must have been 'brutally dealt' with on your arrival home?
(Laughter), No, I dare not do that. I had to deal gently with my wife because she is still a nursing mother. The youngest of my kids is one and a half years old, so I have to be careful how I jump on her.
Is your wife aware of your 'flings'?
Yes, she has an idea I play around because we joke about it at home.
Then as a Muslim, there is a tendency you will have more wives in future?
I can’t rule out anything but for now I don’t think I want her to share me with somebody else. My first love dropped me because she was convinced not to marry a physically-challenged person. My wife was also dissuaded from marrying me but she insisted I was the right man for her. Whenever I remember her faithfulness and conviction to go ahead in spite of what was said of me to her, I do not wish to have another wife.
Don’t you think any of the women you relate with can entrap you with pregnancy?
I let the women know my stance, that the relationship is for fun but when I discover that they are taking it too far, I severe relationship with them. My wife hears stories about these but she knows she is safe.
During training camps, don’t you experience temptation to flirt with your women teammates?
There was an example during one of our build-ups in Dubai but the lady switched off when she realised I was not playing along.
What kind of women do you prefer?
Tall busty women drive me crazy. I don't mind the colour but the size matters to me. I fear no status, I'm a man and bold enough to declare my intention to any woman who catches my fancy. It's the man who holds the key that can open the door. Women prefer to go for athletes because they know we are fit and last a marathon in bed.
Tell us about the places you’ve been to as far special sport is concerned?
My first time out of the country was in India at 2010, I have been to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and London, England. I aimed to be at Beijing 2008 Olympics but then, the coaches felt I was raw and inexperienced, that I lacked the nerve to live up to expectations of a big occasion like the Olympics. Nigeria had a more experienced lifter in Roy Ishiaku who I actually beat during the trials but I did not attend the qualifier because Roy was there.
Do you believe in miracle?
If somebody came from the blues and offered to heal you of disability, will you come forward?
There is no miracle that can heal me. None! In fact, I’m grateful to God for creating me this way. No man knows the way of God! When I was a kid, I always asked God why he created me like this of all the 13 children of my dad. Today, I’m not the richest of my dad’s children but the most famous. I’m most grateful to God. That is why after lifting 180kg at London 2012, the first thing on my mind was to bow and shout Alahu Akbar (God is the greatest). It was the realisation of my ultimate dream. A world record and an Olympic gold medal. What next do I ask God for?
As a world champion, describe your experience for us?
Of all the championship I have attended, the easiest was the London 2012 Paralympics. It was as if I was having fun, I felt no stress at all, I was just having a field day because I had lifted 195kg before London. Even in South Korea, I lifted 180kg so I was relaxed because I had prepared myself for the gold medal.
But we saw fright in your face when you were going for the lift. This contrasts to the confident situation you are describing to us now?
You are right to observe that I was nervous. I felt nervous not because of the lift but because of the size of the crowd. To be honest with you, I had never performed in such a big stadium before. The size of the crowd I saw was comparable to the one we see at football matches. I was surprised that Europeans could troop out enmasse to watch a powerlifting event. Immediately I switched attention to the event. I regained my composure. I am not new to breaking world records. In India, I broke one but then the record was not recognised by the International Olympic Committee.
We observe that most of your generation are aging. How do you suggest Nigeria finds replacements for those of you who have been there?
In this sport, it is easy to know when an athlete is declining. Your ability is measured in the lifts and everybody can see. It has nothing to do with age but with technique, discipline and training. Most of us doing Nigeria proud are of the same age as you rightly mentioned but if the older athletes continue to dazzle the younger ones, what can you do other than picking the best? As a lifter, if you miss a day of training, you missed a week of fitness. Only four days ago, I lifted 190kg in training and that is a result of persistent effort. Those of us who do not train regularly after the Paralympics will suffer when there is a competition. For me, I won’t relent because the next thing for me is the All-Africa Games gold. I have won the Commonwealth and Olympic gold but not yet the gold at All Africa Games. It is the next thing on my mind.
If the Paralympics had coincided with the month of Ramadan, as a muslim, would you have been able to cope?
I would have missed the fasting, to be honest. Powerlifting is not the sport you can do and fast. Even when we were on the training tour in South Korea which coincided with the month of Ramadan I did not fast but I called my wife to arrange the waivers for me according to Islamic injunctions. I understand some people can fast and compete but in my own case I can’t. It can lead to a serious health consequence.
Is there fixing or favouritism in powerlifting as being feared in other sporting events?
It is more of a honest game than most other sports because everybody can see your abilities but a coach or referee who does not like you can halt your progress by stopping you from advancing from one category to the other by alleging foul lift. Each time I go to a competition, I ask God to protect me from the hands of a bitter referee who for one reason or the other can rule your effort unacceptable by alleging foul lift. So far, God has answered that prayer for me.
Do you have any magical incisions on your wrist? Do you want the public to believe that your record-breaking lifts are a natural phenomenon?
You can look at my wrists, check them, can you find any magical incision? There is no juju in this sport. It’s God’s doing and persistent training.
But you derive spiritual assistance from the Synagogue church? Pastor T.B. Joshua gave me the sum of N1 million and a car for my effort at the Commonwealth Games in India in 2010 and nothing more than that. As a Muslim, Pastor T.B Joshua never preached Christianity to me and each time I drive the Toyota Camry car he gave me, I pray that God bless him abundantly. When in 2010, one of my coaches informed that a call from Lagos asked me to attend a reception for the Commonwealth Games medallists at the Synagogue, I asked 'who is T.B. Joshua?' When he announced the donation, I felt it was not yet time for me to ride a car but to sell it and use the proceeds to complete the house I was building.
As if he knew what was on my mind, T.B. Joshua came to me personally and advised that I should never sell the car. He said I would get plenty of blessings riding the car. The car was of immense help to me as I tried to complete my house.
So Pastor T.B. Joshua is more of a philanthropist to me than anything else. When the Commonwealth contingent was with him in 2010, somebody hinted him that it was three days to Eid-il-Fitri (Ileya) festival. He called me aside and handed an additional fifty thousand naira (N50,000) to my package and said if driving my car would be a problem, he was ready to pay N30,000 for driving lessons for me. Like I say, each day I live, I pray for TB Joshua.
After all these achievements, do you intend to go back to shoe repairing?
It will be difficult for me to go back to the business. Though it is the trade that gave me my wife and my 16 year old daughter, yet I don’t have the energy to go to the market, procure raw materials and return to the workshop. It is too strenuous for my condition. However, I’m still in love with shoes and I hope I can open a factory, travel abroad and stock my shops with quality, up to date materials.
How do you relax?
I’m not the type that goes clubbing or wining but I like to listen to fuji music of Osupa Saheed and Obesere when I am at home or in the car.
What is your advice to special sports athletes?
I will advise they marry early so that they can raise and cater for their children when they are young and energetic.