Mr Mammadov is a wheelchair user and it is not a comfortable subject for him but discussing access to sport for people with different challenges, is a mission for him. “When I first had my accident, that which put me in the wheelchair, the environment didn’t accept me. So, I tried to find new environments and went to study law abroad.” In a new country and with new subjects for study, Mr Mammadov added to his challenges but also found mental freedom in the finding of solutions and alternatives.
“I was in the military before the accident and I have to say that many people feel, including me, that they cannot be useful once disabled.” Mr Mammadov paused to compose himself as this subject is not easy. He was an active sportsman, military personnel and a family man and while his family stayed constant, all other areas of his life changed.
“Parachuting and bungee-jumping were among the activities I tried, searching for active environments. I was the first person in Azerbaijan to do parachuting in a wheelchair. The President of the Azerbaijan National Paralympic Committee noticed my activities and offered me a position in the NPC. I worked in media for the NPC and eventually in 2013 the Children’s Paralympic Committee was established and in 2017 I became a director of that group. For the 2015 European Games and the 2017 Islamic Solidarity Games I was involved in the organisation, as we were the host country. I was the person responsible for solving accessibility, which made sense!"
"Before the wheelchair was added to my life I was also a sambo athlete which is closely related to judo and I became interested in judo due to the similarities. Of course I wanted to join in! In 2018 for the IBSA Grand Prix Baku I agreed to be part of the organising committee. I was then Chairman of the 2019 organising committee for the same grand prix, working closely with Dr Lisa Allan of the IJF and now we have moved forward to organising the IBSA World Championships.
It’s a great pleasure for me to be able to show that despite the wheels I can still do everything necessary with my brain. Today our committee is at 14 people and 5 are wheelchair users. The average age of our world championships committee is 25, with the youngest being just 17.” This is an incredible statistic; 5 wheelchair users organising a judo event and some of them are teenagers. It really shows what people are capable of when there is access and opportunity
“Our awarding ceremonies presenters include people with challenges. Some of those invited to work with us here at the event are not interested in judo specifically but they are interested in sport and in inclusion. As a committee we prove that regardless of challenges all people can contribute to the organisation of high level sports events. We bring all our experience of organising all kinds of events and also our life experiences to judo."
"While at the hotel here I have spoken with many different teams about their experience at this IBSA World Judo Championships. If they are being honest with us,” Kamal laughs, “They say it’s perfect. We can see their feelings on their faces. If they have smiles then everything is good.
The judo has been super throughout. With protocol rules I cannot cheer from my position in the tribune. When the Azerbaijan athletes are on I can’t help myself and so I have to move away. We are a small group and a close community and so the athletes say that when they hear my voice they are motivated. After this championship my voice is completely dead, it’s been such a show! The best thing to acknowledge here is the crazy high level of discipline of all the athletes and coaches.” Mr Mammadov continued to speak about the professionalism of the IJF staff, “Special thanks to Lisa Allan and Abdullo Muradov and the whole IJF team. We are learning a lot from them.”
What is also true is that the IJF is learning a lot from Mr Mammadov and his team. They overcome difficulties and prejudice every day and they do so with humility and positivity. The results of that attitude are clear and gradually the world is changing to accept all people in all environments, because of proactive people like him.