He was born in Ghana, partly grew up in Amsterdam and is now in the US selling luxury vacuum cleaners from door to door. In 2022 Akwasi Frimpong will be the first Ghanaian at the Winter Games as skeleton Athlete.
The story of Frimpong is somewhat reminiscent of the movie Cool Runnings (1994), inspired by the Jamaican Olympic bobsled team from 1988.
“I want to be the first Ghanaian to be going down on a sled. With 120, 130 kilometers per hour, five centimeters with your chin on the ice,” Frimpong says during a brief visit to the Netherlands, while he is preparing for the World Cup in Koenigssee next week.
The road to the Winter Games of 2022 is still long, but Frimpong alsohas a long trip behind him. His mother left Ghana to provide a better life for her sons in the Netherlands. At first he stayed as an eight year old boy illegally in Amsterdam, but in 2008 he received the Dutch nationality.
“I have fought hard for thirteen years for a residence permit. The government has made a lot of mistakes. But I never wanted to be a victim” said Frimpong.
“It’s not just been my fight. It’s also been a fight of others like Johan Cruyff, who called me a hero on television. And a lot of other people who have helped me. I’m doing this for myself and for them . ”
At the age of 15 Frimpong began with athletics. For the Netherlands, he tried to get to the 2012 Olympics in London as a sprinter, but he did not qualify. Then he tried the Dutch bobsled team, but for the 2014 Games he did not qualify.
Wintersport is a strange thing in Ghana
Now the 30-year-old athlete is trying it for Ghana, with a clear reason. “In the Netherlands there are already a lot of good winter athletes. It’s all about my legacy. I really want to give something back to the country where I was born. Winter is something very strange in Ghana. I want to motivate young people in Ghana to get out of their “comfort zone”. If this works, I can give hope to young Ghanaians. ”
Self-proclaimed president of private union
Frimpong himself founded the bobsleigh and skeleton federation in Ghana, of which he appointed himself president. He finds himself not so strange. “Someone has to do it. And of course it is also the intention to scout talent in Ghana.”
He still uses the money he earns by selling vacuum cleaners in America, to achieve his goal. “Just as in the fifties I go with in a suit with tie from dooor to door and I give presentations to people at home. I have a piggy bank, but I hope we eventually get sponsors.”
First gold for Ghana?
The Games next year in Pyeongchang are actually still too early. “It takes about four to six years to learn how to use a skeleton. That’s the reason I want to go for 2022. I need to be in the top-60 of the world. After fourteen weeks I am on position 96. I think that’s very realistic. I have succeed this time”.
But the dream of Frimpong does not stop at the Olympic opening ceremony in Beijing. “Ghana has never won a gold medal at the Olympics. I want to be the first Ghanaian who wins gold.”