Akwasi Frimpong

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Akwasi Frimpong
Personal information
Born (1986-02-11) 11 February 1986 (age 32)
Sport
Country Netherlands,  Ghana
SportSkeleton, sprinting, bobsledding

Akwasi Frimpong (born 11 February 1986)[1] is a Dutch-Ghanaian sprinter, bobsledder, and skeleton athlete who has won four bronze, four silver, and eight gold medals in various national and international sport events.[2] Frimpong, who was raised in Ghana, moved to the Netherlands at the age of 8 and started running when he was 15. In 2003, he became the Dutch National Junior Champion in the 200 meter sprints, which earned him the nickname ‘GoldenSprint.’[3] Frimpong participated in the 2018 Winter Olympics representing Ghana in the skeleton.

Biography[edit]

Childhood[edit]

Frimpong spent his first eight years in a small one-room home in the city of Kumasi, Ghana. His grandmother Minka raised him and nine other grandchildren. Though they all slept on the ground and his grandmother struggled to feed that many mouths, Frimpong remembers those years with fondness. At the age of eight, Frimpong joined his mother Esther Amoako, a gospel singer, in the Netherlands. At that time, he was not a legal immigrant to the Netherlands, but his family worked on obtaining his Dutch residence permit. The process took 13 more years, and a monumental effort by his many supporters. He finally earned his residency permit in 2007, and gained Dutch nationality in 2008. When ready to attend high school, with his illegal status, the only school that gave him a high school education chance was the Johan Cruyff College, a school that offers athletes an opportunity to balance sport with vocational education. During this period, he faced several challenges, which Frimpong describes as: “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 out casted.”[4] It was only after what Frimpong describes as ‘monumental effort’, that the athlete and his parents were able to acquire a legal residence permit in the Netherlands in 2007 and Dutch nationality in 2008.

Running[edit]

Frimpong began sprinting at 15 years old, when a friend showed him a medal he had won in a race. Frimpong wanted one, so, in 2001, he started running under former Olympian Sammy Monsels. After just two years of hard work and intense training, Frimpong won the title of Dutch junior champion in the 200-meter sprint. This was the same achievement that earned him the nickname ‘GoldenSprint’. By 2003, he was earning the nickname GoldenSprint and he aspired to compete at the Olympic Games. To honor Frimpong's work, Monsels gave him his golden track shoes at this time.[5]

Injury and Athletic Scholarship to Utah Valley University[edit]

Immediately after his first national win, Frimpong suffered a severe ankle injury that derailed his pursuit of excellence. This was the time when he was still an undocumented immigrant; therefore, many doctors refused to provide him medical treatment and physiotherapy. However, a physiotherapist named Michael Davidson, who had been following the story of this budding athlete, decided to treat him against a token fee of one euro only. Despite the compassionate and professional care provided by Michael, it took Akwasi three years before he could completely recover from the injury and started running again.

He met some students who had studied in America and heard about running opportunities there. In order to utilize the time when he was unable to participate in athletic competitions, Akwasi applied to several colleges in America. One of the universities he sent his athletic profile to was Utah Valley University. He was offered an athletic scholarship.

Track Successes and 2012 Olympics Attempt[edit]

Frimpong started at UVU in 2008 and ran for the college team in 100 meters, 200 m and the 4×100-meter relay. In May 2010, Frimpong helped the relay team break the school record during the 2010 Great West Conference Championships, with a time of 41.05 seconds. In 2011, he helped UVU 4 × 400 m relay team win a gold medal and broke the meet record during the Great West indoor Championships held at the Armory indoor track in New York City. Individually, his times recorded for the university were 6.99 seconds in the 60-meter dash, 10.71 in the 100 m and 21.93 over 200 m.[6] He graduated from Utah Valley University (UVU) with honors in marketing and a minor in business management in 2013.[6]

After college, Frimpong recorded 6.85 seconds in the 60-meter dash, 10.45 seconds in the 100 meters, and 21.88 seconds in 200 meters race.[7]

Frimpong aimed to represent the Netherlands at the 2012 Summer Olympics but was a long way from the Olympic qualifying standards of 10.24 for the 100 m and 20.65 seconds for the 200 m. He was only managing eleven seconds after his injury but improved to 10.45 seconds in 2011.[8] In 2010, he was ranked 70 among Dutch sprinters but managed third in the yearly rankings in 2011. He competed at the 2011 Universiade but was again over eleven seconds for the 100 m – with a time of 11.04 seconds World University Games conclude in Shenzhen – Wrap report. IAAF. He was not selected for the relay team for the 2011 World Championships in Athletics as he was not among the top six runners that year and had suffered an achilles injury.[9]

Bobsledding[edit]

Akwasi was courted by the coach of the Dutch bobsled Olympic team, Nicola Minichiello,[10] training for about five days at the push track in Harderwijk, the Netherlands. A push track is a bobsled on wheels that runs down a small hill on rails on dry land.

The Dutch team came up to Park City, Utah during November, the team tried out Frimpong as the brakeman for the four-man World Cup Race in Park City. Pushing off the Dutch "B" team, Frimpong, Ivo de Bruin, Thierry Kruithoff and Bror van der Zijde were ranked 21st out of 26 teams.[11] In September 2013, Frimpong was invited to the Dutch Pre-Olympic Team trials. After two days push off in Oberhof, Germany he was selected among seven other brakemen. His next performance came at the 2013 World Cup Race in Park City where he was in the two-man bob with de Bruin, but after finishing second the team were disqualified as their sled was made of non-FIBT-permitted materials. After this, de Bruin chose another brakeman, Yannick Greiner.[12][13] Neither Frimpong nor De Bruin made the Dutch team for the 2014 Winter Olympics.[14]

Skeleton, and Olympic Qualification[edit]

After failing to qualify for de Bruin's bobsled team, Frimpong initially earned money by selling his car and working as a door-to-door salesman for vacuum cleaners near his training base in Utah, however, with the encouragement of his bobsleigh coach and his wife, he changed sports in a bid to qualify for the 2018 Winter Olympics in the sport of skeleton, for his birth country of Ghana. By the end of 2016 he was ranked 95th in the world.[10]

Frimpong competed in the IBSF World Championships skeleton event in Germany in February 2017, finishing in last place out of the 44 entrants.[15] He confirmed his qualification for the Olympics on 15 January 2018, only two years after taking up the sport.[10]

Rabbit Theory[edit]

The documentary film, The Rabbit Theory,[16] by Dutch filmmakers Rinske Bosch and Nicole Batteke, begins in 2003, and follows Frimpong for five years in the Netherlands. After winning the Dutch National Junior Championship in 2003 at the age of 17, Frimpong was seen as the newest sprinting talent from the Bijlmer, Amsterdam. Frimpong trained each night under Subwaystation Kraaiennest with former Olympian Sammy Monsels, and the film follows his journey of training for the Olympics, while fighting for Dutch residency.

It’s more than just a film about an athlete or a film about citizenship. At one point in the film when he is at a race, he describes feeling like a rabbit in a stadium surrounded by lions, needing to be astonishing just to survive. His entire life can be summed up by this analogy. The documentary premiered in Europe in September 2010 and has been submitted to international festivals.[citation needed]

GoldenSprint Challenge[edit]

Started in 2012 by Frimpong, the GoldenSprint Challenge is a USATF-sanctioned meet, aimed at testing and promoting local athletes. Using the Utah Olympic Oval, athletes compete in sprint events, with the fastest runner garnering the Golden Spikes Trophy. Frimpong has said he started this event to promote indoor sprinting and training in Utah.[17]

Bobsled and Skeleton Federation Ghana[edit]

Bobsled and Skeletal Federation Ghana (BSF-Ghana) is the most recent startup of Akwasi Frimpong.[18] Founded on 5 July 2016, the federation directs any kind of activity related to the practice of Skeleton and Bobsleigh in Ghana. The mission of BSF-Ghana is to maintain friendly relations among its members and national and international stakeholders. In addition to this, the federation also works to defend the sporting interests of its members and support them in representing their interests to the local and international authorities.

Sponsorships[edit]

Frimpong has worked in partnership with Nike, Kalenji, and Eurotech Group. He was also the face of Acai Action, a non-carbonated energy drink produced by Neways.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Akwasi Frimpong, Athlete Profile, International Association of Athletics Federation
  2. ^ Akwasi Frimpong, Achievements, Akwasi-Frimpong.com
  3. ^ Sprinting towards the gold The Review
  4. ^ The Long Distance Sprinter — Akwasi Frimpong’s Olympic Journey —via Youtube
  5. ^ GoldenSprint Challenge, goldensprintchallenge.com
  6. ^ a b Akwasi Frimpong Archived 2014-03-02 at the Wayback Machine.. Wolverine Green. Retrieved on 2014-03-02.
  7. ^ Akwasi Frimpong, Athlete Profile, www.all-athletics.com
  8. ^ Akwasi Frimpong. IAAF. Retrieved on 2014-03-02.
  9. ^ "Akwasi Frimpong: Against All Odds". July 31, 2012. Archived from the original on March 2, 2014. Retrieved November 9, 2012.
  10. ^ a b c "Winter Olympics: Akwasi Frimpong - from illegal immigrant to Olympian". BBC Sport. 14 February 2018. Retrieved 15 February 2018.
  11. ^ Akwasi Frimpong Archived 2014-02-25 at the Wayback Machine.. FIBT. Retrieved on 2014-03-02.
  12. ^ De échte start van het seizoen. Bobteam de Bruin (2013-12-03). Retrieved on 2014-03-02.
  13. ^ NAC 2 Men Bob Park City 21.11.2013 22:00h Results Archived 2014-02-22 at the Wayback Machine.. FIBT. Retrieved on 2014-03-02.
  14. ^ Team Netherlands. Sochi2014. Retrieved on 2014-03-02.
  15. ^ UVU article on Frimpong's competition
  16. ^ "The story behind the Ghana Olympic skeleton slider's helmet". NBC Olympics. 26 January 2018. Retrieved 19 July 2018.
  17. ^ press release from the goldensprint challenge, ut.milesplit.com
  18. ^ BSF-Ghana, Team Captain www.bsfghana.com

External links[edit]