BOISE, Idaho — As part of the Challenged Athletes Foundation’s grant night, Abbas Mamoudou, a refugee from the Central African Republic, received his very own hand-cycle.
In 2002, while at a market with his family in the capital of the Central African Republic, Bangui, Abbas was shot in the back by rebels. The gunshot severed his spinal cord, and he lost all use of his legs.
Ten years later, the fighting in the Central African Republic resumed between Christians and Muslims. Abbas and his family fled to Cameroon, and eight years later, he was accepted to the United States as a refugee on March 30, 2021.
“I will say that Boise is a wonderful place with nice and social people,” Abbas said. “I am very pleased by the warm welcome I received and happy to be here.”
When CAF-Idaho coach and mentor, Wilson Dippo, heard about Abbas's story he immediately invited him out for a ride after a mountain biking clinic.
“We have been getting to know each other the last four weeks. We have been going on rides every week and so I have really felt lucky that I have had the opportunity to share that experience with him,” Dippo said. “When we start flying down the hill and just seeing the smile that lights up on his face, that is as good as it gets.”
In the three short months since arriving in Idaho, Abbas has learned how to hand-cycle, and now through a grant from CAF, he has his own bike.
“This bike represents a lot for me. It is a beginning, and I am going to train hard so that I can move forward,” he said. “Before I moved to Boise, I was not able to practice but now that I am here, I started practicing and I have been able to adjust.”
Abbas is also ready to start competing.
“On our first actual mountain bike ride together, at one point, we were near the edge of a trail, and he reached up to grab the break and hit the throttle on his e-bike instead. He ended up down a small cliff off the trail,” Dippo said. “The really cool thing about Abbas was 10 minutes later, he was still asking me, 'So how does competition work with this sport?' when most people would have been like, 'game over, that was scary, I am done.'”
“So, the Paralympics in the future?”
“Yes, with a lot of pleasure,” Abbas said with a huge grin on his face.
Dippo rides with Abbas at least once a week and each time he sees him he said that he is more confident and comfortable, not just with riding, but with his English as well.
“For Abbas, just trying to find a new community when you have literally moved across the world, that is an enormous challenge, and it is even harder when you are someone who comes here with a disability,” Dippo said. “You’re immediately kind of an ‘other’ so to find that community is hugely important.”
A new community, or better described as a new family, is what Abbas has gained through CAF-Idaho.
“It has brought to me a lot of emotions. It made me believe that one day I can move forward and become a professional athlete too," Abbas said. "We learn a lot just by being around them, they are experienced, so I have had the opportunity to talk and get insights from them. It is a lot of pleasure and inspiring to watch them."
“Watching Abbas who has been through so much that none of us could possibly fathom and to see him come to Boise specifically it is so beautifully orchestrated,” Jenn Skeesick, CAF-Idaho's Regional Director said. “And for us to get to meet him and make him part of our family, it just doesn’t get any better than that.”
Last year, the Challenged Athletes Foundation sent out 3,038 grants to adaptive athletes totaling over $5.1 million, and 350 of those went to athletes in Idaho.
To learn more about their grant program available to athletes like Abbas, click here.