Nigerian Para badminton player Bello Rafiu Oyebanji, triple gold medallist at the African Para Badminton Championships 2018, lost his life in a motor accident on Wednesday 21 April.
Bello, who competed in the Standing Lower (SL4) category and was a member of the BWF Para Badminton Athletes’ Commission since 2017, was determined to make history for his country and continent at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. He was considered one of the best Para badminton players from Africa.
Bello had been busy making his final preparations for the upcoming Spanish Para Badminton International in Cartagena, which is the last qualification tournament for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
Expressing sorrow at the news, BWF President Poul-Erik Høyer 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 Vice President Para Badminton Paul Kurzo added: “Bello’s passing is a sad loss to the Para badminton community. He was well liked and played an important role in the growth of Para badminton as a sport in Nigeria and Africa, as well as the development of emerging talent in the region.”
BWF Council Member and Para Badminton Athletes’ Commission Chair Richard Perot paid tribute to his colleague. “Bello was a skilful 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 but never letting that detract from his goals.
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.”