Dennis Competing in IPC World Championships

Dennis Ogbe competing in IPC World Athletics Championships

By: C. Ray Hall

Dennis Ogbe of Louisville has traveled 8,500 miles to compete in the IPC World Athletics Championships, which will begin their nine-day run Saturday in Christchurch, New Zealand.

He can go far enough, but can he throw far enough to medal in his specialties, the discus and shot put?

“That’s everybody’s dream,” Ogbe said a few days before leaving for the International Paralympic Committee event, which has drawn 1,055 entries from 79 countries. It is the largest international competition for disabled athletes until the 2012 Paralympics in London.

Ogbe already has realized two dreams: becoming an American citizen 11 months ago and competing for the United States in these games.

He had the best efforts by an American in both his disciplines last year and ranks fourth in his class worldwide in discus (52.77 meters) and fifth in shot put (13.16).

“I’m going to bring the best out of what I have and try to psych myself … to perform very well,” Ogbe said. “But my ultimate goal is to go there and have fun … and in the back of my mind, to go there and win.

“I’m psyching myself mentally for the competition.”

Janusz Rokicki of Poland (15.78 meters) is the top-ranked shot putter in Ogbe’s class. Abo Elkhir Matawa of Egypt (53.30) is the top-ranked discus thrower.

Team USA has 51 athletes, including seven who sustained disabling injuries while serving in the military.

Ogbe, who became a U.S. citizen last year, was born in Nigeria 34 years ago. As a 3-year-old he contracted polio, which left his left leg paralyzed. He throws from a chair-like platform that keeps him stable.

Ogbe is a human-resources specialist at Brown-Forman, the Louisville-based distiller. He competed against able-bodied athletes at Bellarmine University, where he earned two degrees, including a master’s in business administration.

In New Zealand he’ll be on the other side of the world — and the clock and the calendar; it’s summer there. Because of the frigid weather in Kentucky, he couldn’t work out much and doesn’t consider himself in top shape.

“I think I will be like 87 percent. Maybe 87.5,” he said. “I’m worried because my body has been getting too used to the cold and snow and everything.”