Taekwondo Olympian Mahama Cho hopes to kick on and win a National Lottery Award for himself and a cash prize for a Manchester refugee project.
The two-time World Grand Prix gold medallist is competing to be named National Lottery Athlete of the Year in the 2018 National Lottery Awards – the annual search to find the UK’s favourite Lottery-funded athletes and projects.
Should he be successful, Mahama, who moved to the UK from the Ivory Coast at the age of 8, has nominated the Manchester Refugee Support Network for the £5,000 cash prize.
The Manchester Refugee Support Network provides refugees and asylum seekers with support to help them build safe, happy and productive lives.
Today Mahama visited the organisation who were holding an immigration information day to see for himself how they have used their National Lottery funding to provide an invaluable service to refugees and asylum seekers.
He said: “It is a great honour to be shortlisted for the National Lottery Athlete of the Year award. The competition is very strong and there are some fantastic contenders.
“If I win, I have chosen the Manchester Refugee Support Network to receive the £5,000 cash prize.
“Adapting to life in a new country is challenging in any circumstances and it is invaluable to have such a fantastic organisation such as the Manchester Refugee Support Network to provide practical support. Many of those they work with are fleeing persecution, conflict and injustice and desperately need this guidance and help.
“National Lottery funding has been vital to me personally in helping me compete at the highest level. But it also does so much good in other walks of life and helps make a life-changing difference in communities across the UK as demonstrated by the work of the Manchester Refugee Support Network.”
Tendayi Madzunzu, from Manchester Refugee Support Network, added: “Mahama Cho is a brilliant role model and we were delighted to host him at our project.
“His life story from growing up in the Ivory Coast to representing Great Britain in the Olympics Games is a real inspiration.
“At the Manchester Refugee Support Network, we aim to support and empower Greater Manchester’s refugee communities and build a strong network of community organisations.We try to give refugees and asylum seekers a voice, give them access to services and ensure they understand their responsibilities as active citizens.
“National Lottery funding has been integral in helping us meet their needs and develop their skills.”
Since National Lottery funding for Olympic and Paralympic sport started in 1997, British athletes have won an incredible 860 medals.
The new ‘Athlete of the Year’ category provides an opportunity to celebrate the remarkable achievements of the UK’s world class National Lottery funded athletes, whilst demonstrating the impact National Lottery players have on elite sport.
Taekwondo practitioner Mahama beat off stiff competition from a longlist of 120 other worthy contenders to reach the public voting stage in this year’s National Lottery Awards. Mahama is one of seven finalists selected by the judging panel for their sporting achievements, passion for their sport and ability to inspire others.
Mahama is a dominant figure in the +80kg weight division of taekwondo, with two World Grand Prix golds, a silver World Championship medal and a valiant fourth place finish at the repechage match at Rio 2016 to his name. Off the mat he visits schools local to his hometown to speak out on anti-bullying and adapting to life in the UK, having immigrated to London from the Ivory Coast, Africa at the age of eight.
The seven athletes shortlisted in this year’s National Lottery Awards are:
- Alex Danson, Hockey, England and Great Britain
- Emma Wiggs, Para Canoe, Great Britain
- Lizzy Yarnold, Skeleton, Great Britain
- Mahama Cho, Taekwondo, Great Britain
- Duncan Scott, Swimming, Scotland and Great Britain
- Katie Archibald, Cycling, Scotland and Great Britain
- Menna Fitzpatrick and Jennifer Kehoe, Para Skiing, Great Britain
The public vote will decide which athlete is crowned champion in the first ever National Lottery Awards ‘Athlete of the Year’ category. The athlete who finishes in first place will receive a £5,000 cash prize to award to a National Lottery funded project of their choice. Mahama has said he would give his prize to the Manchester Refugee Support Network.
The victorious athlete will also receive an iconic National Lottery Awards trophy and attend a star-studded glitzy awards ceremony to be broadcast on BBC One on 26 September 2018.
To vote go to lotterygoodcauses.org.uk/awards. You can also follow the campaign on Twitter: hashtag #NLAwards. Voting in the new Athlete category runs from 9am on Wednesday 1st August until midnight on Friday September 14th.