Mahama Cho hoping to use his experiences to help children improve their lives

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Taekwondo Olympian Mahama Cho is trying to use his personal experiences – both good and bad – to help the next generation of youngsters make better choices in adult life.

The Ivory Coast-born athlete was bullied as a child when he arrived in London aged just eight and unable to speak English but used his sport not only as a coping mechanism but as a way to challenge those who were abusing him.

Having competed at the last two Olympics he, in conjunction with the British Olympic and Paralympic Associations and Youth Sport Trust, is taking his message into schools where he hopes he can help children improve their lives and their community as a whole.

“Being bullied at school, being isolated and not fitting in: these are the things you go through at school and these kids sometimes don’t talk about it enough,” Cho told the PA news agency at a school in Gorton, Manchester.

“This is why it is important for me. Growing up I didn’t have the opportunity to have such visits in my school and have the opportunity to be inspired.

“From the moment I entered the country at the age of eight there was an element of something I had to overcome.

“I wouldn’t say it was the colour of my skin, it was more or less I didn’t fit in: I was different to everyone, I was skinny, tall and couldn’t speak the language properly.

“I had to learn along the way with support of my father and the support of my sport, teaching me the discipline that taught me how to be able to diffuse the problem and make those bullies become my friends.”

While Cho does not believe his bullying was racially-motivated he accepts it remains a problem in society.

Mahama Cho
Mahama Cho was bullied as a youngster, arriving in the country from Ivory Coast aged eight and unable to speak English (Mike Egerton/PA)

However, he hopes he can help turn that around.

“With the negativity we hear from those who are racist I think it is very small-minded to have such thinking,” he added.

“The most important thing for me is how do I deal with that, how can I control it and change the thoughts of those people.

“If I can tell them my story and have an impact that would hopefully change the way they think.

“It starts with our youngsters, the next generation, to be able to change the cycle of our world and that’s why I’m looking to go into the community as much as possible to help and to inspire our youngsters to become better and do better.

“There are always going to be other obstacles if not bullying. We need to get those stories out, share more and educate more, and if we are able to do that we will change a lot of lives.”

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