The PyeongChang 2018 competitions kicked off on February, 9 with a warm ambience, as host country South Korea put aside existing tensions with North Korea for a joint march with representatives from the two countries during the opening ceremony. The competitions will continue until February, 25.
Kwame ‘Snow Leopard’ Nkrumah-Acheampong was the first Ghanaian to ever enter the Olympic Winter Games in 2010. However, Africa’s first time was at Sarajevo 1984, with Senegalese alpine skiier Lamine Gueye. Seun Adigun, Ngozi Onwumere, and Akuoma Omeoga (women’s bobsleigh) and Simidele Adeagbo (women’s skeleton) will be flying the flag for Nigeria this year. Other African countries at PyeongChang 2018 include Eritrea, Madagascar, South Africa, Morocco, Togo and Kenya.
According to the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation, Akwasi Frimpong, who is being coached by former USA skeleton athlete Lauri Bausch, ranks within the top 60 presently. Though he was once nicknamed ‘GoldenSprint’ at the 2003 Dutch National Juniors for his sublime momentum, things haven’t always been so rosy – previously he’s been a door-to-door vacuum cleaner seller to push his journey through. As a reminder of his beginnings and as a motivational emblem, his helmet bears the image of a rabbit escaping a lion’s snare.
“As an illegal immigrant, I had to face different challenges. I was unhappy. I was scared and I didn’t know what to do. I felt abused, I felt outcasted,” he said of the time.
Before gospel musician Esther Amoako, Frimpong’s mother, could go to the Netherlands with him when he was eight years old, he lived with his grandmother in Kumasi, Ghana. When he turned 15, he started running and received training under former Olympian Sammy Monsels.
Several career-threatening injuries and difficulties with medical care accessibility followed. It was not until 2007 that Frimpong got a Dutch residency permit and enrolled at Utah Valley University on an athletic scholarship. He was first introduced to bobsleigh before switching to skeleton.
Presently, Frimpong is one of six athletes to represent a country for the first time in Olympic skeleton, the others being Jamaica, Ukraine, China, Israel, and Nigeria. This breakthrough is the best birthday gift since he turned 32 on the second day of the Olympics.
Frimpong has been endorsed by the Ghana Olympics Committee and has worked in partnership with Nike, Kalenji, Eurotech Group, Acai Action and Neways. Having previously won eight gold, four bronze and four silver medals at both national and international levels, he is eager to return home with a medal with his steadfast message in mind: Dare to dream!