Born into a lower class faimily on January 27, 1977, in Jos, Nigeria, Vitalis Lanshima is a World Record Holder in Paralympic 100, 200, and 400 meters. He is the first immigrant to serve in elected office in Kentucky, United States. He is also the President and founder of several organisations, including The ASPIRE Group, LLC, ASPIRE Juice Bar + Cafe, ASPIRE 360°, and now ASPIRE with VITALIS.
He attended the University of Jos Staff School, Government Secondary School Gangare, and Mount Olive Secondary School on Ring Road all in Jos. Vitalis has had a remarkable life and an inspiring athletic and professional career. His life is an embodiment of endurance, perseverance, and faith. Vitalis learned the values of hard work, honesty, and responsibility at an early age. He started his first business at the age of 9. At the age of 14, he opened a grocery store with a couple packs of cigarette, a pack of biscuits, and a pack of candies. Within a year, the business grew into a full-fledged grocery store and he expanded into three different ventures.
His life is an embodiment of endurance, perseverance, and faith.
Vitalis was twelve years old when God interrupted his life, for His Glory. On October 13, 1989, he was carrying a high jump crossbar out into the field to practice for the upcoming athletic competition when the crossbar he was holding straight up with both hands inadvertently touched an electric, high-voltage power cable and was electrocuted.
He experienced third-degree burns that crushed his hands, ripping through the skin on his left thigh and right Achilles, and melted his fingers together, and rendered his hands useless. After several surgeries to repair damaged nerves and restore function, the doctors settled for amputation because gangrene had set in, creeping up fast. For five years, Vitalis now a teenager relied on his family and friends for his daily care and needs.
His mother insisted that he wear agbada to conceal his disability.
In 1994, Vitalis, frustrated because of the lack of therapy, nonchalance from government officials and institutions, and the immense burden he placed on his family began to experiment with the help of his father, older brother, and childhood friend, learning how to complete simple tasks at home. First, eating, brushing, bathing, and eventually he learned how to write, holding the pen with his stumps. With this new empowerment came aspiration. Vitalis returned to school and athletics, breaking every barrier of stereotype and prejudice that is labelled on the handicapped in Africa. Life was tough for Vitalis, but he did not retreat, with support from his mother, family, and neighbours in Angwan Rogo and Vanderpuye – Tafawa Belewa area. In 1996, Vitalis won his first Gold medal in 800 meters for Plateau State at his first championships – the National Sports Festival in Makurdi, Benue State.
lthough Vitalis missed out on the Paralympic Games in Atlanta, he persisted. By 1998, Vitalis became the national champion in 400, 800, and 1500 meters. His athletic career blossomed, but something was missing – an international challenge. He switched from middle distance events to sprint events which gave him the opportunity to represent Plateau State and Nigeria, at international competitions. In 1999, he won his first international medal at the All African Games in Johannesburg, South Africa. In 2000, Vitalis won three Gold medals at the Afro-Asian Games in Tunis, Tunisia where he also qualified for the Paralympic Games in Sydney, Australia. At the Sydney games, Vitalis set two World Records in the 200 and 400 meters when he crossed the finish line in the time of 22.82 seconds and 52.78 seconds in 200 and 400 meters respectively, becoming the first double-arm Amputee athlete to break the 24 seconds and 54 seconds marks.
Vitalis’ performance and zeal earned him accolades and admiration. At the Sydney Paralympic Games, Vitalis was recruited by Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky to become the first disabled athlete to be recruited by an NCAA accredited institution to represent them in any sporting event. In 2004 Vitalis was ranked No. 2 in the 100 meters in the Great Lakes Valley Conferences (GLVC) and shattered the 100 meters World Record with a time of 11:08 seconds and became the first Paralympic athlete to place in any major NCAA Championship. He also lowered his 200 meters record to 22:71 seconds in the same year. In 2006, Vitalis once again raised the bar, lowering his world record times in 100 and 200 meters to 11:05 seconds and 22:52 seconds.
The first disabled athlete to be recruited by an NCAA accredited institution to represent them in any sporting event.
In 2004, Vitalis was nominated for the Laureus World Sports Award. In addition to his athletic exploits, Vitalis is busy off the track. He is an advocate, and educator, and teaches a class in Social Entrepreneurship at his Alma Mater, Bellarmine University.
In 2011, he was conferred a Kentucky Colonel and named to the 44 member Bingham Fellows Class, charged with identifying impediments to parent and family involvement and developing strategies to broaden resources for families and enhance community involvement to inspire student achievement.
Perseverance, proper planning, and self-discipline always yield success
He is a mentor, and motivational speaker at schools, colleges, and organizations throughout the world. Vitalis currently serves as a Councilman representing District 21 in Jefferson County, Kentucky in the United States. He is the first immigrant to serve in public office in Kentucky, and the first person with a disability to serve on Metro Council in Louisville, Kentucky.