SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – When you think of Olympic athletes from the country of Ghana, you probably don’t think bobsled or skeleton.
But one former Utah Valley University track star is trying to become a true pioneer on the ice.
“It’s really a childhood dream,” said Akwasi Frimpong. “It’s really a childhood dream that you’ve always had, and you want to accomplish that dream.”
Years ago, Frimpong thought he would accomplish his Olympic dream. After moving from Ghana to the Netherlands at the age of 8, Frimpong, who ran track at UVU and graduated in 2013 with a degree in marketing, was on pace to make the 2012 Summer Games on the Dutch 4X100 relay team. But an Achilles injury held him out.
After failing to qualify as a brakeman on the Dutch bobsled team, Frimpong thought his Olympic dreams were over. But his wife Erica, a former BYU track star herself, encouraged him not to give up.
“She supported the idea that you have to go back and fulfill my dreams,” Frimpong said. “The one thing she said was I don’t want you to be 99 years old and still whining about your Olympic dreams.”
So his former bobsled coach suggested he try skeleton.
“I actually went to Park City and did the tryout to see if it was something that I wanted to do,” he said. “Your brain, it was a speed you had never experienced before.”
Speeds up to 90 miles per hour.
“It was definitely scary,” Frimpong said. “You’re about three inches from the ice, afraid that your chin is just going to beat down on the ice and on concrete. But the funny part is when you get to the end, you just want to go back and do it again.”
Even though he hadn’t lived there since he was a boy, Frimpong wanted to represent Ghana, which has had just one Winter Olympian in their history.
“I’ve done a lot for the U.S. and for the Netherlands, but I haven’t done a lot for the country where I was born,” he said. So, at the age of 31, I want to do something back for my country. I want to put Ghana on the map, and I’m doing that through skeleton going head first.”
Akwasi needs to be in the top-60 to qualify for the 2018 games. Right now he’s in the top-100, so it’s probably more realistic for him to make the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing, despite not receiving much financial help from Ghana.
“Winter sports are not big there, so they put more into summer sports,” he said. “Another challenge is that racial people see a black guy on ice doing skeleton. Being able to make it to the Olympics, I’m representing hope, I’m representing everybody who believes that they want to make that dream become a reality.”
To learn more about Akwasi’s quest to make the Olympics, click here.