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Paralympic Basketball Player Ade Adepitan At Our First Knowledge Guild of 2018

British television presenter and accomplished wheelchair basketball player, Ade Adepitan MBE won the bronze medal at the 2004 Summer Paralympics in Athens, Greece as a member of Great Britain team and the gold medal at the 2005 Paralympic World Cup in Manchester, UK.

A well-known personality, we caught up with Ade after he spoke at our first Knowledge Guild event of 2018 - Game-Changers: People, Ideas & Inventions That Disrupted The World - alongside former athlete and chairman of London 2012, Lord Sebastian Coe; the first female Controller of BBC One, Lorraine Heggessey; the inventor of the auto-disable syringe, Marc Koska; and host and TV news journalist, Samantha Simmonds. 

(You can also check out a previous interview with us here!)

Ade, you’re a Paralympian, TV presenter, travel journalist and soon-to-be published author! Tell us, did you always want to become a Paralympian?

I always wanted to be an elite athlete – it was my dream since I watched the Olympics in 1984 (Los Angeles, California) which totally blew me away. I remember watching it on a black and white TV, which my parents bought for me, as an 11-year-old boy, and seeing these Games taking place thousands and thousands of miles away in Hollywood, with all these incredible athletes at the very top of their game!

When I saw them compete, I just thought, I want to be like that. These guys are superheroes! I suppose that sparked off my journey to try and become a Paralympian.

You're heavily involved in the Polio campaign, after contracting the disease as a child. What are your hopes for the future of the campaign?

They say that it’s around 2020 that we could eradicate the disease for good. I want to be there when the UK Secretary General makes that announcement, which says that the world is polio-free. It would be just one of the greatest moments in the history of the world.

It's strange to think that we can send a probe into space to land on an asteroid, and yet we’ve only ever eradicated one disease – small-pox! So getting rid of polio will be one less thing for the next generation to worry about. It would be a beautiful thing.

Can you tell us about your new book?

Yes - I’ve written a kid’s book, which is based on my life growing up. I've been told that it’s going to the first book where the main protagonist has a disability, which I hope will open new doors and inspire people. Growing up, I felt like an outsider, so the main thrust of the book is saying that it’s okay to be an outsider. It’s actually quite cool to be different, and you can still be successful and do amazing things, even though you feel like you don’t fit in. I’m really excited and hope that the book connects with people. It’s fun, it’s funny, and it also has some sad moments in it.

You talk about feeling different as a child. What more do you think can be done to encourage diversity and inclusivity in the UK?

That's a very big question! I think what we need to embrace is that the UK is so diverse, whether we like it or not, and I think that this is one of its biggest strengths! You can come to London, as well as other parts of the UK, and eat food, speak to people, listen to music from all over the world.

I think something becomes strong when it uses little parts from everywhere, bringing them all together to make this really diverse and incredible thing.  That’s where we are the UK, and we need to grasp that if we want to maximise our potential and who we are as a nation. To do that, we have to draw on everything we are as a country. 

You're also a travel journalist. What's next for you?

I’ve got a new TV series coming up that I’m about to start filming for in May, about Africa, which will be aired on BBC2. We’re going to around 15 countries in Africa as a sort of epic travel journey, taking from the whole Michael Palin style of journalism. So I'm looking forward to that!

Amazing! What lessons do you pull from all these experiences and achievements when speaking to audiences?

I often get asked about the content of my speeches – I talk about resilience, challenging yourself and overcoming obstacles. I think one of the main things is the fact that all of us are superheroes – we just haven’t been given the tools to unlock that inner superhero.

We’re all stronger than we know and we all have the abilities to deal with really tough situations. We’ve just got to be brave and believe in ourselves.

Can you leave us with a motivational mantra?

Embrace the challenge, and don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Nobody that is successful has ever got there without making a mistake!

Thanks Ade!

For more info. about Ade Adepitan or any of our speakers, call us on +44 (0) 20 7607 7070 or email us at info@speakerscorner.co.uk.

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