He said, “My man, you’ve got something within you that I need to explore out there” and the rest is history.
At two-years-old, James Bobby Siaffa contracted Polio and lost full use of his legs. Overtime, he sat on the sidelines of most sporting events. Just watching. Fast forward to now. Siaffa is known as “Bobby the Big” and he is one of Liberia’s strongest men.
Siaffa’s story emphasizes how far support and encouragement can take a person. His life changed the moment a stranger introduced him to competitive Para Powerlifting. Through this sport, Siaffa found the limitless possibilities the world holds for people with disabilities.
Imagine seeing someone wheelchair bound hop into their car and drive off. This might not be awe-inspiring for the average person, but for Siaffa this was something new. Something he did not know was possible. Each time Siaffa left Liberia to train and compete, he returned home more inspired. His experiences transformed him from the young boy sitting on the sideline to the world class athlete shining in the spotlight.
International athlete. Paralympian. Ambassador for the disabled. Inspiration. Siaffa carries each description on his shoulders and wants to share the weight with other Liberian athletes with disabilities. Though the road is filled with obstacles, he has learned that support and encouragement are the gusts of wind necessary for progress.
Often times, citizens wait for the government to cultivate the talents of young people. Siaffa’s story proves that this responsibility does not belong solely to the government. Even in nations with top Olympic athletes, private sponsors and supporters finance and cheer on young potential. Gold medals are won during training.
After boycotting the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics, to bring attention to issues concerning Liberian athletes with disabilities, Siaffa shares his story with LIB OLYMPIC BLOG. He discusses how he started powerlifting and the issues he has with the Liberia National Paralympic Committee. Listen to a clip from Siaffa’s interview below.