Wednesday, Sep 28, 2022 | Rabi Al-Awwal 2, 1444
Published: Thu 21 Apr 2022, 4:07 PM
Hungry, homeless, and broke. A little over a year ago, Nigerian expat Alpha Lucky Handsome Chukwunwike Okechukwu was at the end of his rope.
Alpha had no roof over his head, no money and nothing to eat. The only thing he had was a dream, and he held on to it in the face of insurmountable odds to finally turn the corners.
“Sixteen months back, I was sleeping on an empty stomach on the streets of Sharjah. Today, I run a fitness club in Dubai that employs several people,” says the young entrepreneur.
Alpha said he hopes his story of determination and perseverance could motivate others never to lose sight of their goals.
The second oldest of four siblings, Alpha, came to the UAE in January 2018 on the advice of a pastor in his home city Agbor in Nigeria’s Delta State.
“The pastor said my destiny lay in Dubai. I took his words seriously, packed my bags and came here looking for work,” he recalls.
An agent took him to Ajman, where he shared a room with ten others. “I was a fitness trainer back home, so I thought my best bet was to find a job at a gymnasium. It wasn’t easy.”.
Alpha said he spent months knocking on the doors of various fitness centres before a gym in Sharjah hired him at a modest salary.
Here, Alpha met an Uzbek boxing coach who saw the potential in the young man and took him under his wings. “I had barely trained with him for three days when I heard about an amateur boxing tournament at Sharjah’s Al Batal and Kickboxing Gym. I decided to give it a shot. “My coach was aghast as I was not ready yet. He said he would never train me if I lost the fight.”
That didn’t happen. Alpha went on to win the tournament. A second gold medal followed three months later when he floored his opponent with a knockout punch.
Soon Alpha was spending more time at local boxing tournaments than at his job. It did not go well with his employer. “He asked me to choose between my job and my passion. I chose the latter,” he says.
With his income dried up, the boxer fell behind on his rent payments and was subsequently evicted.
“Those were the hardest days of my life. I spent several nights on the Sharjah Corniche wondering where my next meal would come from,” he says.
Despite his precarious situation, Alpha didn’t give up on my training and went on to win five more gold medals at local boxing tournaments.
“As a boxer, I had to consume a certain number of calories daily, but there were times when I couldn’t even afford a loaf of bread. I am grateful to my coach, who not only trained me for free but often bought me food. My Pakistani and Indian friends also helped me.”
In 2019, Alpha’s visa was cancelled, and he had to return. But he didn’t let the setback deter him.
In Nigeria, he continued to train and qualified to represent Nigeria in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo after making the cut at the African Boxing Olympic Qualification Tournament.
Unfortunately, his Olympic dream was dashed when the event was postponed until 2021. By then Alpha had returned to Dubai and was starting from scratch.
“I couldn’t take part in the Olympics as Nigeria refused to send any boxer for the Games on the revised dates citing financial, technical and logistic reasons,” he says.
It was the first time since the 1960 Olympics in Rome that Nigeria failed to field a boxer for the world’s biggest sporting event, except for the 1976 edition, which was boycotted by the country.
“I was heartbroken. All those months of preparation had gone waste. Meanwhile, I was getting a feeling of déjà vu as I soon ran out of money while looking for a job and once again found myself on the familiar streets of Sharjah,” he says.
Alpha said his fortune started to change when he offered to work for free at two fitness centres in Dubai’s Al Barsha area.
“I would take personal training sessions and give the gyms a portion of my earnings. Besides a ripped body, I had technical knowledge and skills, relevant certificates, and great communication skills. The clients liked what they saw.”
Around the same time, Alpha found work at a fitness centre that used electric muscle stimulation (EMS) to deliver quick results.
Within months, his life was on track. He started getting clients for the centre and was soon promoted to manager.
“I was earning and living well, but I wasn’t content. I wanted to introduce my transformative fitness solutions, and I thought the best way to do that was to start something independently.
“I had a dream to create the best boxing and fitness system in the country, but no one was willing to invest in a person who was homeless and worthless just a few months ago.
“But I backed myself until I found the right people who believed in me and agreed to be a part of my dream,” he says.
Alpha launched his company early this year, fittingly called Alpha Fitness Club, which offers personal training services at homes, gyms, and outdoor locations.
“We have roped in world-class trainers, including certified transformational and glute specialists, motivational coaches, and highly certified fitness experts. Business is good as we conduct between 15-20 sessions daily.”
Next month, the company is also opening a standalone boutique gym near Dubai Festival City.
“Dubai is a city of dreams, and my story proves that nothing is impossible here if you put your heart, soul and sweat into it. I am nowhere near making it big, but I will get there someday. I am just 24.”
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Wednesday, Sep 28, 2022 | Rabi Al-Awwal 2, 1444