SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – Akwasi Frimpong’s dream of returning the Olympics is officially over.
Frimpong, a former Utah Valley University track star who became the first athlete from Africa to compete in skeleton at the Winter Olympics in 2018, was on pace to possibly qualify for the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing. But with three races left in the qualifying season, Frimpong contracted Covid and was forced to miss those races.
Former USA skeleton coaches Zach Lund and Brian McDonald launched a campaign to have the Olympic International Quota system, which was in effect for the 2018 games but removed in 2019, reinstated. After not hearing from the IOC for weeks, Frimpong finally heard his fate on Wednesday.
“In this specific case, the Olympic qualification process for Beijing 2022 was proposed and approved by IBSF in December 2019 and this was subsequently approved by the IOC Executive Board, including the athlete quota,” IOC Sports Director Kim McConnell wrote in a letter to Frimpong. “Following this, and understanding that we can not increase the number of qualified athletes, giving an athlete a quota place which is not according to the qualification criteria would consequently imply the exclusion of another athlete qualified in the current qualification system. Accordingly, we regret to confirm that an additional out of quota place cannot be allocated to Mr Frimpong.
“As for other athletes across the world facing the challenges of the global pandemic over the past two winter sport seasons, it is indeed unfortunate that Mr. Frimpong has not qualified for Beijing 2022 and we wish him well in his future endeavors.
We would also like to reassure you that the IOC fully supports diversity and inclusion in the Olympic Games, as well as clear and fair qualification systems that apply equally to all athletes wishing to qualify for the Olympic Games. We would like to highlight that these qualification systems are developed and put in place by International Federations to ensure a fair and credible process for athletes to qualify for the Olympic Games according to their sports’ structures and priorities. Collectively, the qualification systems allow diversity at the Olympic Winter Games, however this is not necessarily reflected at each discipline level in every sport.”
Frimpong is hopeful the IOC will revisit the international quota idea for the 2026 games, so athletes from the 54 African countries can be better represented. There will be no African athletes competing in the sliding sports in Beijing next month.