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He may be a retired athlete since 2012, but former Canadian national judo team member
Miguel Ngombi is still involved in the sport that allowed him to live his passion fully. This is why he created the “Give Back to Congo” project which, since 2006, has been collecting judogis and donating them to various clubs in his home country.
For more than 15 years, Miguel Ngombi has been collecting judogis every year from provincial federations and Judo Canada and distributing them to Congolese athletes every two or three years. “The goal is always to collect as many judogis as possible before leaving. In fact, my trips to Congo are always scheduled according to the number of judogis I have. When I judge that I have enough, I can start planning it,” explains the man who has been living in Canada for over 20 years. After a memorable experience with the Congolese national team at the 2001 Jeux de la Francophonie in Ottawa and Gatineau, Ngombi decided to pursue the adventure on Canadian soil. A few years later, he officially obtained his citizenship and joined the Canadian senior judo team. He proudly represented the Canada until 2012, when he won the national title in the under 73kg weight category. “When I saw all the opportunities available to me in Canada, I decided to stay and make a life here, but I still wanted to find ways to help athletes in my home country,” he says. “It’s very difficult to get quality equipment back home and I decided to collect judogis to donate.” In the past decade, Ngmobi has made several trips to Congo, where he not only distributed equipment, but also took the time to organize training camps to pass on his passion. And each time, he has made more and more lasting memories. “During my trip, I go from one city to another and I distribute judogis as equally as possible among the clubs. I also take the opportunity to share my experience and it’s always nice to see the smiles on the athletes’ faces,” he says, adding that the Canadian judogis have become an integral part of Congolese judo. “At least 60% of the judokas wear Canadian gear and my goal is always to give more. The cost of living is very different in Congo and people live on an average of one dollar a day. It is very difficult to get equipment and for them to have a judogi is like having gold! Every time, we see all the joy and happiness when we put them back on. You can really feel that we make them happy.” To say the least, Miguel Ngombi is a busy man. In addition to travelling and leading this project, the financial advisor by profession continues to hit the mat weekly at the Shidokan club in Montreal, especially with his son Jérémie. “Another of my motivations is to help my son reach his dreams,” he says. “He just joined the Quebec team, and I am always there to help him if he needs it, just like the other youngsters in the club. We want to get the best out of the athletes with Sensei Hiroshi Nakamura.” One thing is certain, Mr. Ngombi has not finished making the judokas around him dream. While he wants to support his son in achieving all of his athletic goals, he also has a big vision for his Give Back to Congo program. As time goes by, the donations have always been more and more generous, which allows him to hope that one day the project will expand to donate various equipment, and to continue to promote judo throughout Congo. “We are starting to spread the word with the provinces and territories, as well as with Judo Canada to get as much equipment as possible,” he says. “Eventually, I hope to be able to help with other needs such as mats and protective equipment. In the long run, I’d like to improve the training conditions by bringing in anything that will help us practise the sport in a better environment.” Certainly, Judo Canada will continue to support the “Give Back for Congo” program and will collect as many judogis as possible to donate to the cause. “We are very happy to participate in the project! We invite the community to donate their judogis either at the National Training Centre at the Institut National du Sport du Québec or by appointment at the Judo Canada office on Beaubien Street in Montreal,” says Marie-Hélène Chisholm, High Performance Manager at Judo Canada. If you have any questions about the project or would like to make an appointment to deliver your donations, please contact . [email protected]