7th August 2018

Olympian Mahama Cho is competing to be crowned the National Lottery Athlete of the Year after reaching the finals of this year’s National Lottery Awards – the annual search to find the UK’s favourite Lottery-funded athletes and projects.

Since National Lottery funding for Olympic and Paralympic sport started in 1997, British athletes have won an incredible 860 medals.

The brand new ‘Athlete of the Year’ category provides a golden opportunity to celebrate the remarkable achievements of the UK’s world class National Lottery funded athletes, whilst demonstrating the impact National Lottery players have on elite sport.

Taekwondo practitioner Mahama beat off stiff competition from a long list of 120 other worthy contenders to reach the public voting stage in this year’s National Lottery Awards.

Mahama is one of seven finalists selected by the judging panel for their sporting achievements, passion for their sport and ability to inspire others.

Growing up in the Ivory Coast, with his father abroad, his mother “not in the state of mind” to look after him and barely enough money for food or clothing, Cho’s early years were far from idyllic.

He was brought up by his grandmother in West Africa. Bullied on a daily basis. Sent to England as an eight-year-old. A talented footballer who chose taekwondo instead.

Mahama Cho has always been a fighter, for protection and a profession.

At 6ft 3in and more than 90kg, it is difficult to imagine this intimidating 29-year-old heavyweight from London feeling physically threatened.

Mahama is a dominant figure in the +80kg weight division of taekwondo, with two World Grand Prix golds, a silver World Championship medal and a valiant fourth-place finish at the repechage match at Rio 2016 to his name.

Off the mat, he visits schools local to his hometown to speak out on anti-bullying and adapting to life in the UK.

The public vote will decide which athlete is crowned champion in the first ever National Lottery Awards ‘Athlete of the Year’ category.

The athlete who finishes in first place will receive a £5,000 cash prize to award to a National Lottery funded project of their choice.

Mahama has said he would give his prize to the Manchester Refugee Support Network, an organisation directly managed by refugee communities who provide practical support to those fleeing persecution, conflict, and various forms of injustice and abuse.

The victorious athlete will also receive an iconic National Lottery Awards trophy and attend a star-studded glitzy awards ceremony to be broadcast on BBC One on 26 September 2018.


Speaking on the nomination he has said: “I am ecstatic to be nominated for ‘Athlete of the Year’ at this year’s National Lottery Awards.

It is thanks to National Lottery players that I am able to represent my country and win medals so it feels incredible to be in the running for an iconic National Lottery Award.

It would be amazing for myself and the sport of taekwondo to win the award so hopefully, people do go out and vote for me to win.”

To vote go to lotterygoodcauses.org.uk/awards.  You can also follow the campaign on Twitter: hashtag #NLAwards. Voting in the new Athlete category runs from 9 am on Wednesday 1st August until midnight on Friday, September 14th.  

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