Decorated Nigeria Paralympian finds home in Shreveport

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Grace Anozie is like many others; she wants to do right by mom and dad.

That mantra was tested nearly two decades ago when Anozie, after a suggestion from a friend, nervously embraced an athletic hobby in her native Nigeria.

“My parents don’t believe sports have anything good,” Anozie said. “They are all about education.”

Despite being paralyzed below the waist following a bout with polio at age 2, Anozie fell in love with weightlifting. She quickly learned, like any elite athlete, a powerful drive to win burned within.

Two years after picking up the sport, Anozie earned a bronze medal at the 2000 Paralympic Games (the debut of Paralympic powerlifting) in Sydney. She won another bronze four years later in Athens.

Anozie raised the bar in 2008 at the Beijing Games, where she captured a silver medal.

In February of 2012, Anozie set a new world record in the 82.50kg-plus category with a bench press of 168kg (about 370 pounds) in Dubai at the Fazza International Powerlifting Championships.

Later that year in London, at 34, Anozie’s lift of 162kg earned Paralympic gold.

Life as a paraplegic is “all” Anozie has known. The platform is her happy place. There, she’s judged — like any competitor, able-bodied or otherwise — simply on the number posted.

“When I’m competing, we are all equal,” she said. “It’s the same. Nothing is different.”

After four Paralympic Games, Anozie set her sights on the United States. Anozie left Nigeria for Chicago, but a problem with her training facility left her searching for a new home.

After browsing the Internet, LSUS’ world-class facility and head coach Kyle Pierce became an option.

“Coach Kyle has been a big help,” Anozie said. “There are lovely people here. Everyone wants to help me.”

Her parents do, too.

“After I won my first medal in international competition, they were like, ‘Wow, we didn’t know you could do this.’

“They are happy. They support me. Whenever I need them, they are there.”

Anozie never wanted to feel like she had “disobeyed” her parents; once she got the powerlifting bug, she was simply chasing a dream.

“They are happy. They love me,” she said. “They see me as one of their best kids now, but then it wasn’t like that.”

Anozie is currently surrounded by some of the sport’s best, including Shreveport’s two-time Olympian Kendrick Farris.

“Grace is a good person and very enjoyable to be around,” Pierce said. “I enjoy talking with her about a lot of things. She has a great deal of wisdom and is an inspiration to everyone in the gym.”

Anozie’s “next step” includes continuing her education. She definitely won’t have to run this decision by her parents.

“It makes me feel good,” Anozie said. “(Not having my parents) feels like I lost everything, like I’m alone in the world. I didn’t want to lose my parents. I’m happy they are happy with me.”

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