Coaches Brian McDonald and Zach Lund, who train first Ghanaian skeleton athlete Akwasi Frimpong have become dominant voices that the sport in Africa will suffer a “crushing blow” if no African competitors compete in either sliding event at the Games in Beijing.
These concerns that there would be no African racers at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics have prompted urgent requests for the return of continental quota seats in bobsleigh and skeleton.
At Pyeongchang 2018, Ghana’s Frimpong and Nigeria’s Simidele Adeagbo made history by becoming Africa’s first skeleton racers to compete in the Winter Olympics. The International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation’s (IBSF) continental quota system qualified both athletes for the Games.
However, following Pyeongchang 2018, the judgement was overturned, and Africa now risks a lack of representation in bobsleigh and skeleton. With 50 spots available and based on the IBSF global rankings, the qualification procedure for Beijing 2022 is set to expire on January 16th.
McDonald and Lund argued that restoring the continental quota spots would have “very minimal impact on logistics and planning” for the Games, but they were concerned that it would have a “massive impact on the hopes and dreams of millions of African youth.”
McDonald and Lund signed a letter to International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach, requesting a modification in the qualification procedure to allow African competitors to compete.
McDonald and Lund, who coached the US team before assisting Frimpong, stated the regional quota system was “integral to the future growth of Olympic sliding sports in Africa.”
“We are requesting the reinstatement of the Olympic continental quota spots for Africa in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games,” McDonald and Lund wrote in the letter.
“The importance of African representation in Winter Olympic sport is of utmost importance to the Olympic movement. Currently, the Olympic sliding sports will be without any African representation after immensely popular participation in the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang. We should not allow Olympic sport to take a step backward in terms of the inclusion of African nations successfully competing in the Winter Olympic Games.”
Frimpong is now placed 65th in the IBSF men’s skeleton standings and the highest-ranked African athlete in the IBSF North American Cup circuit’s history, having finished eighth overall this season.
The 35-year-old was scheduled to compete in IBSF Intercontinental Cup races in Altenberg and a World Cup event in Winterberg, but he cancelled both events, after testing positive for coronavirus.
In a subtle reaction to his campaign for the continental quota, he tweeted a quote of encouragement and tenacity by Roy T. Bennett:
Difficulties & adversities viciously force all their might on us and cause us to fall apart, but they are necessary elements of individual growth & reveal our true potential. We have got to endure & overcome them, and move forward. Never lose hope -Roy T. Bennett. #hopeofabillion
McDonald and Lund believe that the costs of competing in the discipline, which is expected to make its Olympic debut in Beijing 2022, “are enough to discourage any small nation athlete from participating.”
Adeagbo is currently ranked 37th in the Women’s Monobob World Series. Frimpong and Adeagbo both finished a training block in October at Beijing’s Yanqing National Sliding Centre, but they appear to be out of the Olympics.
Global Athlete on twitter published a copy of McDonald & Lund signed letter to International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) President, Thomas Bach
Further extracts from the letter reads:
“The dream of so many Africans to watch and be inspired by fellow Africans competing in the Winter Olympic Games will bear long-lasting fruit for Olympic sport.
Let’s keep building on this dream and not defer it due to Inequitable quotas that didn’t take into account the massive hurdles African athletes must clear in order to train and aspire to be Winter Olympians.
An exclusion will be a crushing blow to African athletes who worked so hard and who dared to dream what once seemed impossible.”There are currently no athletes in either the Olympic sports of bobsled or skeleton, and in fact, very few in all Olympic sports, who have as large a following as Akwasi Frimpong of Ghana.The IOC would be remiss to fail to capitalise on this opportunity to once again grow the sport.
McDonald and Lund believe the continental quota system should remain in place until the inequities and difficulties are no longer obstacles for African nations in Winter Olympic sports.
The colours of the Olympic rings stand for the inclusion of all continents, including Africa. Let’s make those colours meaningful.Let’s do the right thing and include the African continent in these Olympic Games.”
Source: Geoff Berkeley | Insidethegames
Arakunrin Lekan is a Managing Editor & writer at the TheAfricanDream LLC. He’s also a freelance poet, graphics designer, and a business man.