Olympians train their entire lives in one event in the hopes of having that perfect performance at the most opportune time which is the medal round at an Olympic Games.
They train countless hours, make countless sacrifices and hope that one moment leads to Olympic glory.
For some, it happens more than once.
For others, it never happens.
For Akwasi Frimpong, that moment nearly passed him by for one sport, but his HOPE is to shine the next time the lights of the Winter Olympics are bright and pointed directly at the Skeleton track.
Frimpong is Ghana’s first Skeleton Olympian and just the country’s second Winter Olympian, but a funny thing happened on his way to PyeongChang 2018.
You see, Frimpong started as a track and field athlete, but suffered an injury before he could qualify for the Olympics.
The injury forced him to try Bobsled for the Netherlands (he was born and raised in Ghana, but moved to the Netherlands when he was eight), but his efforts to make it to the Olympics in Sochi fell just short as he was a second alternate. Once again, he was forced to watch.
“The honest truth is that I was very devastated,” Frimpong says. “The first time I missed the Olympics was in 2012 when I was on the Dutch pre-Olympic 4×100 relay team for the 2012 London Summer Olympics. So missing 2014 made me feel a little bit hopeless and I actually thought for like 2 years that I was a loser and that it wasn’t meant to be. So many people told me I should forget about my dreams and go find a real job. I started to believe those people.”
But this athlete has too much energy to just watch and that’s where the dedication and perseverance of a world class athlete took over.
Of course, he said not before a voice from his youth popped in his head.
“One day when I went to the gym to work out before work, I heard my grandma Minka’s voice in my head. She told me something very important when I was leaving Ghana for the Netherlands at the age of eight. She said ‘Akwasi, what you need for success is already in you. It’s a matter of believing in yourself, having the will to work hard and to never give up.’ I went home and told my wife I wanted to give my dream one more chance.”
And the rest, as they say, is Olympic history (remember Akwasi Frimpong is the first Skeleton Olympian from Ghana).
“My wife’s response was ‘Akwasi, I don’t want you to be 99-years-old and still be whining about your Olympic dream, let’s go for it,’ and the rest was history.”
Frimpong knows he has the unconditional support of his family and friends, but finding time to balance training, family and time for himself can require the discipline of an elite athlete, especially one who competes in a sport that offers no compensation despite racing down the ice on a sled at 80 miles-per-hour with his chin just inches above the ice. After all, there is no Major League… Skeleton, or National… Skeleton League.
“It is not easy,” he says. “I compete in a sport that doesn’t make money. No government support and very limited sponsorships. I not only have to fund everything myself, I have to take care of a wife and a baby. My wife has always worked up until a month before the 2018 Olympics when my daughter was 8-months-old. I travel so much for my sport, about 6-8 months of the year, and our little daughter has eczema and food allergy, that makes it hard. For now, we have decided to have my wife stay at home and take care of our baby. I think she has the hardest job in the world. I’m grateful she is a super mom, but I also know sometimes she just wants and needs me home. Her unconditional support has made the difference. Her support keeps me grounded, but also motivates me to work extra hard when I am training and competing. I set my standards and expectations high. Her dream was always to be a mom, but I can’t wait for the day, she can work on something she likes while I take care of our kids.”
Frimpong says at the end of the day, the work, the dedication, the training (6 days a week) is all worth it, because of his family. He says they make the effort worth it and hopes it ends with him becoming Ghana’s first Winter Olympics medalist.
“They are the reason I grind. I want to be the best husband, father and an example for my daughter when it comes to going after your dreams. Sky is the limit and if failure was the only last step there wouldn’t be something called success. Just believe in yourself, work hard and never give up.”
You can read more about Akwasi at akwasifrimpong.com.
Be sure to read these other profiles:
Racing Toward History? Https://bit.ly/2zSBE42
Winning the fight against personal demons https://bit.ly/2A8GFFV
Taking cancer… For a road trip https://bit.ly/2R8r56M
Inside the mind of an artist https://bit.ly/2y96hBy