Representing Australia was one of Abebe Fekadu’s proudest moments when he competed in powerlifting at the 2007 Arafura Games in Darwin. Winning gold was the icing on the cake and Abebe cried with happiness when the Australian flag was raised and the national anthem played.
This scene is a long way from Abebe’s past. Nicknamed ‘Abba’, he only recently became an Australian citizen after arriving here from Ethiopia as a refugee. At just eight years of age, Abebe’s father was taken by the government and executed, accused of being anti-revolutionary. As an adult he became deeply involved in secret pro-democracy meetings, consistently agitating for freedom.
Ironically, Abebe lost his freedom when these meetings were discovered. He fled in his car and a high speed police chase ensued, throwing him from the vehicle and causing him to break his back. Paralysed and unable to move, Abebe was taken to a local medicine man before travelling to the capital. He then moved to Italy to seek professional treatment.
After arriving in Australia and spending time in detention, Abebe began training at the gym and grew stronger by the day. He entered his first powerlifting competition in 2002 and went on to become Australian champion in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007. He also won silver at the second APC Powerlifting Cup in Kuala Lumpur in 2007. His personal best is now 160kg – over three times his body weight.
At his most significant competition so far, Abebe finished tenth at the Beijing Paralympics, something of which he is very proud. Representing Australia at a Paralympic Games was very special for Abebe. He sees Beijing as a great learning curve and experience in international competition. He has since gone on to come sixth at both the 2010 Commonwealth Games and 2010 World Championships. Abebe heads to London after winning silver at the 2011 National Championships.