Inspiring stories are awash with this years Winter Olympic Games as a record number of athletes and countries take place. From the joint Korean Women’s Ice-Hockey Team, to the first African team to qualify for Bobsleigh and the first women from Jamaica to take part in Bobsleigh, there is another story gaining more attention as the competition day grows closer.
That is the story of Ghanaian Skeleton athlete Akwasi Frimpong. Akwasi was born in Ghana and grew up in the Netherlands where his mother believed he would have a better quality of life and education. After two failed attempts in getting to the Summer Olympic Games as a sprinter, on his third attempt, he made it all the way to Pyeongchang to take part in the Skeleton, with ambitions of medalling in the 2022 Games in Beijing.
Akwasi is under the instruction of Team USA coach Lauri Bausch
Lauri learned about skeleton as the weight room intern for the Lake Placid Olympic Training Center in Fall 2008. She returned for a combine test one year later and slid in the development program for the duration of the ’09-’10 season. She had previously participated in rugby, soccer, softball, tennis, basketball, volleyball, and track and field.
As an athlete her career highlights are:
- 2011-2012 Europa Cup
-18th in Koenigssee #1 (11/11), 15th in Koenigssee #2 (11/11), 11th in Altenberg #1 (12/11), 8th in Altenberg #2 (12/11)
- 2010-2011 Intercontinental Cup
-10th in Lake Placid #1 (1/11), 11th in Lake Placid #2 (1/11)
- 2010-2011 Europa Cup
-11th in Cesana #1 (11/10), 11th in Cesana #2 (11/10), 19th in Igls #1 (12/10), 20th in Igls #2 (12/10), 17th in Winterberg (12/10), 17th in Altenberg #1 (12/10), 15th in Altenberg #2 (12/10)
- 2010-2011 America’s Cup
-10th in Park City #1 (11/10), 12th in Park City #2 (11/10), 7th in Calgary (11/10)
Whilst a member of Team USA staff at the Winter Games, Akwasi is still working with Lauri as he trains at Lake Placid along with other members of Team USA.
Read Akwasi’s incredible story below and watch out as his competition begins on 15th February.
The incredible Story of Akwasi Frimpong
It is a story that begins when eight-year-old Frimpong received some valuable words of wisdom from his grandma Minka – words that have stuck with him ever since.
“My grandma sat me down and said: ‘Akwasi, what you need for success is already in you, you just need to believe in yourself, work hard and never give up.'”
However, as a child growing up in Ghana, the prospect of involvement in any form of competitive sport was virtually non-existent for Akwasi and his brother. Cared for by their grandma, in a one-room home barely four square metres in size, which they shared with eight other kids, they were just too poor. Their mum had left the country to move to Holland in a bid to create a better life for her children. Eventually Akwasi followed her to Europe, but his status there was that of an illegal immigrant.
As a teenager, he discovered he had a natural gift for athletics. “At my junior high school, I was recruited in track and field in 2001 by Sammy Monsels, who had competed as a sprint athlete at the 1972 and 1976 Olympics for Surinam,” he explains. “He saw me running in a relay when I was 16. My team was way behind, but I caught up and won the race for us.
“It was Sammy who really instilled the dream of the Olympics in me. Within two months, I went to the Dutch Junior Indoor Championships and missed out on the 60m final by 0.01 seconds. That summer, I missed out on the 100m final, again by 0.01 seconds… I asked my coach what I needed to do to become a gold medallist. He spoke to me about self-discipline and it all started from there.
That year, Frimpong became the new Dutch junior 200m champion. “I had made my dream become a reality,” he recalls. “I realised anything is possible as long as you believe in yourself.”
However, because Frimpong’s family did not have official status in Holland, his progress hit a hurdle. “As a kid, it was hard not being able to go on school trips if they were leaving the country because I was afraid I would be arrested.” It also meant he could not travel abroad to compete.
“Even though I’m now 31, I still want to cry about that. It felt like I like I had so much weight upon my shoulders,” he recalls. “Often I wanted to give up but, any time I felt like that, I thought about what my grandma had said to me.”
In 2003, he got a lucky break, thanks to the intervention of a neighbour, who also happened to be a journalist. “She told me about the Johan Cruyff school where you can combine sport and education. But then I had to tell her my secret: that I was an illegal immigrant. Until then, nobody else knew about it.
“She wrote about my story and the Johan Cruyff school took a risk and accepted me despite the fact I was still an illegal resident.” Four years later his dedication paid off and he was named international student of the year. “That showed that if you work hard, you can achieve big things,” he reflects.
“I was supposed to go to Barcelona to receive the award but, because of my status, I couldn’t go. So Johan Cryuff came to Amsterdam to give me the award. He believed in me and the fact that someone like that – a legend – believed in me was amazing.”
READ THE FULL STORY – Olympic.org