As the country’s only athlete in Rio, Wyndham hopes he can change the perception of people with impairments. “I really want to be the man who can change sports in my country,” he said. “My dream is to see a delegation of 30 or 40 athletes going to a Games from Sierra Leone.
Meet our man crush for this week, George Wyndham, Sierra Leone Para-athlete who had strived and given his best to put the country and disable on a good spot in the world of sport.
Born on 23rd of March, George Wyndham is a Sierra Leonean para-athlete who table tennis player. He competed at the 2016 Summer Paralympics. He was the only Sierra Leonean athlete who competed. Wyndham was able to compete with financial help from the United Nations Development Programme.
After contracting polio when he was young, Wyndham began playing Para sport when he was about 11 years old. He started with athletics, then one day he went to watch a football game and was passing one of the halls inside the stadium, where he saw people playing table tennis. As he watched, a coach asked if he wanted to play.
“I became so interested in the game that I started to skip school to come and train,” Wyndham said.
Since then, he has been training and competing in many para-competition. His major medals include two bronzes, one each from the 2015 and 2013 African Championships. However, he has struggled to compete internationally.
Wyndham couldn’t compete at the 2014 International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) Para Table Tennis World Championships in Beijing, China due to the Ebola crisis in the country. Same goes for Lignano Master Open in 2015, one of the biggest international tournaments as he couldn’t obtain a visa to travel to Italy. Yet, he refuse to give up!
The para table tennis star shares with the Olympic Channel how he is changing the disability narrative in Sierra Leone by encouraging people living with disability to turn to sports instead of begging on the streets. He wanted a country where people in his shoes won’t have to go through the same thing he went through. In order to become the best at his chosen sport, he had to live in the training facility. He said
“I think my absence at the World Championships motivated me. So I tried harder because I knew one day I would [have the potential] to go to another World Championships or Paralympics,” he said.
Through his consistency and hardwork, he became one of the best in the para-athletic competition, the first of his kind in the country, a consistent podium finisher in tournaments in Africa. His best finish was silver at the 2013 Egypt Open. He went on to represent the country In the 2016 Summer Paralympics, Wyndham competed in Class 4 of the Men’s Table Tennis Individual Event. Wyndham was later eliminated from the Tournament in the preliminary round of the tournament after coming 3rd in Group.
Despite that, George has numerous certificates recognizing his exploits in international competitions decorate the walls of his living room. Many medals, prominent figures featuring in his photographs and many more. Medals are carefully arranged at one end of the wall while an enlarged photo of him and Sierra Leone’s president, Julius Maada Bio, hangs up at the other end.