Could limited-finance impede Africa’s first Winter Olympics medal hopeful?

Skeleton Olympian of Ghana Akwasi Frimpong moved up 32 places this season in the world rankings jumping from 99th to 67th place in 2019 to qualify for the World Championships in Canada, though he has decided to focus on becoming Africa’s first Winter Olympics medalist in Beijing 2022 with his ‘Hope of a Billion’ project.

His choice to focus on his long-term goals of showing everyone how an underdog can achieve their dreams has brought in its wake a mixture of good and not so good fortunes.

Akwasi Frimpong [right] with his trainer Zach Lund

The good news first — Akwasi has had a great season of highs on the track — the not so good news, he needs to fund the dream of becoming the ‘Hope of a Billion’ and that calls for funding to maintain his world-class Skeleton sliding coach Zach Lund among other finance miscellanies.

Despite the challenges, Zach Lund believes Akwasi is on track for success and shares with TheAfricanDream.net and RobbyMesser.wordpress.com the reason behind this positive feeling in a Q&A:

What was the toughest part of this season?

Lund: The toughest part of this season was scheduling training and competitions with budget limitations. We had to make a game plan that would allow us to get the best “bang from our buck,” taking into account our development plan and available training and competitions. 

What would you say was Akwasi’s greatest area of growth and how does that prepare him as we get closer to 2022?

Akwasi made great strides this season with his awareness down the track and being able to improve his split-second decision making and problem solving. It is easy to look at a run after the fact and dissect it and analyze it. Unfortunately, when Akwasi is going down the track at 80+ mph he only has a split second to make a decision, which means it must be instinctive. We were able to work on this and he has become much better at making the right decisions while under pressure.

What did you learn as Akwasi’s coach and coaching for Team Ghana?

I learned how challenging it can be for small nations to compete on the world stage in Olympic sports. Coming from a background of working with the U.S. Team which is one of the biggest programs in the world I got a reality check of the challenges that all small nations face in sliding sports. Large programs have established National Olympic Committees and National Governing Bodies that provide a lot of support. Small nations, on the other hand, are usually left with very little to no outside support. This creates a big disadvantage for smaller nations competing against larger programs. 

Money is obviously a challenge for many Olympic athletes who work at their sport year-round.  How did financing impact this season for you, Akwasi, and Team Ghana?

I think in sports in general funding makes all the difference. There have been many studies done on the direct correlation of Olympic performances and funding. Support is critical to compete against the best in the world at anything. Many of the larger programs in the sport have financial support for their top athletes which allows them to train full time without distractions. Finding financial support necessary to compete against the problem-solving programs is something that the Ghana BSF has been working extremely hard to do. 

Do you expect to continue with Akwasi?  If not, how can you still be a resource for him?

I will always be there for Akwasi in some capacity. I strongly believe in his personal character and his mission as the “Hope of a Billion” and will always help him in whatever capacity I can. While funding limitations may put our future of working together in a full-time partnership in jeopardy, it will never come in between our friendship or our commitment to excellence. 

Does Akwasi’s performance this season put him in a good position to make the 2022 Olympics?

Without a doubt. Akwasi’s improvement in his fundamentals and his world ranking is a testament of what hard work and good support can accomplish. Like Akwasi’s grandmother told him, he already has everything he needs to succeed inside him. However, simply making the 2022 Olympics is not our goal. Our goal is to compete for a medal in Beijing while also inspiring others to have the courage to follow their own dreams.

In addition to success on the track, Akwasi organized an athlete combine in Salt Lake City as a way to recruit potential Ghanaian athletes to sliding sports.  Zach Lund helped coach three recruits during a day of drills.

Fans can help support Akwasi’s journey to become the Hope of a Billion by going to his website Frimpong.com or contacting BSF-Ghana for more info at contact@bsfghana.com

Source: TheAfricanDream.net & RobbyMesser.wordpress.com

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