Niger’s Abdoulrazak Alfaga is a taekwondo world champion and Olympic silver medalist.
At just 26 years old, he is an idol in Niger and he’s brought the sport home to teach the next generation of athletes.
“That’s been my mission from the beginning because for me, it’s to show the youth how one can become a champion, because before we didn’t believe that a Nigerien could be a world champion and an Olympic medallist,” he says.
Alfaga trained in secret, as his parents were against the sport.
“At first, it wasn’t easy because my mother didn’t want me to do Taekwondo. So I bought my doboks (official taekwondo clothing) on the sly.
“From 2009 to 2011, I practiced on the sly. “I have nothing but Taekwondo.”
But he says even poor training conditions can still make champions.
“My club was downtown. We didn’t even have this kind of terrace (floor) where we used to train,” he says.
“So it shows that no matter what the conditions are where you train, tomorrow you can become like Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo.”
His message is being well received by young athletes.
“I would like to win like him and win a lot of medals too, to be a great fighter,” says taekwondo student Ismaël.
Alfaga is known for his height at 2,07 metres. At the age of 13, he was already 1.78 metres tall.
He broke onto the international scene in 2012 and won gold at the 2015 African Games. A year later he won silver at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
His talent secured funding by the Nigerian state for his training in Germany.
He is now aiming for gold next summer in Tokyo to become the first Olympic champion of his country.