Paving the Way in Para Sport to Open Doors and Reduce Stigma

Global Disability Innovation Hub, Jennie Wong, Loughborough University
June 20, 2023

the image shows Richard Lubanza, NOC/CGA Zambia Secretary-General Boniface Kambikambi, and Coach Amon Moyo. (Photo courtesy of Zambia Olympic Committee)

Image shows Richard Lubanza, NOC/CGA Zambia Secretary-General Boniface Kambikambi, and Coach Amon Moyo. (Photo courtesy of Zambia Olympic Committee)

Richard Lubanza (34) is a Zambian Para Powerlifter and has been competing successfully for his country since 2014. Originally from Lusaka, Richard was born with Polio and whilst he can walk short distances, he uses a pair of outdated crutches held together with duct tape, and an equally damaged wheelchair to get around.

Richard has always felt there is a strong stigma about being disabled in Zambia and feels that people can be very hurtful with their comments and ideology of disability. The stigma supports the notion that people with disabilities are unable to participate in ‘normal’ activities and should not even try to do so.

Against the odds Richard started to powerlift when he was 10, just for fitness and fun. He eventually became friends with Amon Moyo, who was to become his coach, confidant and best friend. Over the years Richard started to attend youth events and was selected to represent Zambia.

Richard and Amon learnt as they went along. So little was the understanding of Para Powerlifting in Zambia when he started that they knew nothing about the rules, classification, or competition protocols. Richard recalls that at his first Para Powerlifting competition he had to borrow a lifting outfit as he didn’t have one. The fact that it was a women’s outfit did not worry him as he was so desperate to compete and demonstrate his skill.

Interestingly coach Amon was also subject to stigma due to his work with a successful disabled athlete. It was suggested by some that he was using Richard’s disability to be able to achieve for himself and get opportunities that he wouldn’t ordinarily get.

From these experiences, both Richard and Amon are keen to be ambassadors for disability sport in Zambia. Sport has been a critical part of Richard’s life and he recognizes the health and social value that it has given him. Richard stated that “Para sport is ‘life’ and is very important for someone with a disability.

Amon is dedicated to coaching Richard to achieve his ambition of Paralympic success and has also taken on a number of other young disabled athletes – usually for little or no payment. Being a volunteer coach in a minority sport in a sector where there is mass stigma will always be challenging, but his quiet persistence and willingness to learn is quite admirable.

When he retires, Richard wants to become an advocate for disability sport in Zambia and use his experiences to be a “pioneer of helping our young children to reduce stigma {against disability] as they grow up”.