Forward Ever… Despite Blindness

It never rains, it pours. Aged 8, Atangana Guillaume Junior consumed anti-measles and malaria drugs given to him by his father, a chief medical nurse. The medicines attacked the little boy’s nervous system and eventually he went blind. A year later, his mother, died of trauma. In 2010, Atangana Junior’s dad also passed away after failing to right the wrong. As a Christian, the then primary four pupil refused to believe the hypothesis of witchcraft as the cause of his disability. Thanks to sports, precisely athletics, he opened a blissful page of his life. Today, he is listed among the world top five visually impaired sprinters. In his shelve, the Lower Sixth student boasts of many medals won at home and abroad. The athletics Lion broke records in the 100m and 400m sprints to clinch a ticket for the Paralympic Games in Tokyo. What’s the African champion’s pledge to his fatherland? What miracle does he expect from God? Read on for answers.

From dawn to dusk, Atangana Guillaume Junior wears dark glasses. It has nothing to do with fashion. The only thing that betrays his handicap is a white cane. The 21-yearold Lower Sixth student of Government Bilingual High School (GBHS) Ekounou is totally blind. What happened? Atangana Junior returned home excited after a football friendly in 2006. Like other siblings, his father, Atangana Mendana Guillaume, chief medical nurse, gave his own dose of drugs against measles and malaria. But little did he know his son and namesake was allergic. The worst happened. The medicines attacked his nervous system, leading to partial loss of vision. Atangana Junior’s dad made the rounds of hospitals, meeting the best ophthalmologists with the hope of recovering his son’s sight. The miracle didn’t happen! Instead, the situation degenerated and the then primary four pupil became totally blind.

His parents and family relations, at some point, suspected witchcraft. Though aged 8, he didn’t believe he was a victim of “black magic”. “It was really tough for me as I cried for a month in my room. But I didn’t, at any time, hold my father responsible for my misfortune. The drug he gave me was for my good…,” he told “Nyanga” Magazine recently. It never rains, it pours Biloa Martine, his mother (trader), found it hard to accept her son’s disability was natural. Each time she saw the last of her ten children, tears poured. To avoid a trauma, the blind boy was detached from her and sent to live with a paternal aunt in Mbalmayo. But that did not help matters. The aggrieved mother fell sick and died in 2007, a year after her baby lost his sight. Atangana Mendana was, however, lucky to see his child overcome the disability. But this was short-lived, as in 2010, he also passed away, leaving the little boy orphan.

After a few years with his aunt, Atangana Junior learnt how to wash dishes, sweep, and shop with his disability. Then came a glimmer of hope. Bondo Isabelle, his older sister, enrolled him in rehabilitation centres for the visually impaired. From “Foyer Colonel de Roufignaque” in Nlongkak, Atangana Junior moved to Club des Jeunes Aveugles Rehabilités du Cameroun (CJARC) in Ekié, where he obtained the First School Leaving Certificate and Common Entrance into GBHS Ekounou. Schooling with physically fit students was not easy. He was always involved in bouts with classmates who dared insult or stigmatize him. The disabled student imposed himself. He was even designated class prefect. “To write down names of noise makers, I familiarized myself with the voices of all my classmates,” he recalled. Athletics Champion Today, tears and worries are history. Atangana Junior has opened a blissful page of his life. He would have loved to continue with football, a sport discipline he played in his teens when he could distinguish between day and night. With his handicap, he tasted athletics.

During the 2015 New Deal anniversary sports contest, he exhibited athletics potentials, crossing the finish line in the fifth position. Atangana Junior was spotted by Fouda Nsoe Frédérick, who is today his coach and guide. After profound training, he is an international athletics champion. For his pioneer international competition in 2016, the 1.7m tall native of Ngomedzap, Centre region bagged a bronze medal in the 200m sprint at the Dubai Grand Athletics Meeting for the visually impaired. On the national scene, the same year, he clinched two gold medals (100m, 200m) and one silver medal in the 400m race. Since then, the sprinter has not stopped harvesting precious metals during major foreign track and field events. In Marrakech, Morocco 2017, Atangana Junior made Cameroon proud, winning two gold (100m, 200m) and one bronze (400m) medals. This earned him President Paul Biya’s decoration as “Knight of the National Order of Valour.” Two years later in Tunisia, his gold metal won in the 100m sprint permitted Cameroon’s anthem to resonate. February 2020 was a year of feat. The athlete, who weighs 68Kg, didn’t only grab his ticket for the Tokyo Paralympic Games during the Marrakech Athletics Grand Prix, but he broke records. Atangana Junior won coveted gold medals in the 100m and 400m races, respectively finishing in 11secs 65 and 52secs 93.

Surprised by his performance and the energy with which the “roaring Lion” celebrated his Paralympic Games qualification, organisers took him for an anti-doping test, which turned out to be negative. “I wasn’t afraid because my doping is incessant training and my God,” the current African champion disclosed. Pledge, Wish, Miracle Despite the lockdown imposed by the Coronavirus pandemic, Atangana Junior and his guide have been preparing vigourously for the Paralympic jamboree. He has made a promise to his fans and fatherland. “I will be present on the honours roll in Tokyo. I cannot, with precision, say the medal I will bring back home at the end of my debut Paralympic Games,” one of the world’s top five sprinters is optimistic. Born in Mbalmayo on 22 January 1999, Atangana Junior knows his dreams. He had wished to be a medical doctor to follow his dad’s footsteps, but his disability was an obstacle.

He longed to be a Sports and Physical Education Teacher, but the doors of INJS, he says, are still locked to the blind. Becoming a journalist is his surest option now in addition to his sports career. Atangana Junior equally believes in miracles. “I will not be surprised if one day I regain my sight. With God everything is possible. I have faith in Him,” the Catholic faithful stated. He is jovial, but one needs to know his dislikes. Don’t mock at his disability, else he will flex muscles with you. On the table, be sure to make him salivate if fruits, “Kpem” and “Okok”, plus a cold “Booster” drink are on menu. In his spare time, he has ear phones on to listen to music and to comedy. He watches TV, particularly European football matches pitting his darling club, Paris Saint- Germain (PSG). From this portrait, should disability still be considered a fatality? Certainly not, we imagine is your answer.


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