“I battled for 13 years. Giving up was an option, but being patient and persistent were the chosen tools that nurtured the champion from within.” — Akwasi Frimpong
A Dutch-Ghanaian sprinter, bobsledder, and skeleton athlete, Akwasi Frimpong was born and raised in Ghana before he moved to the Netherlands at the age of 8. It took him and his parents 13 years of untiring efforts to earn a Dutch residence permit. These unfavorable circumstances made the young boy gain experiences that facilitated his transformation into a self-assured Dutchman.
During his stay in the Netherlands as an undocumented immigrant, Akwasi faced many hardships, one of them was to find a school that was ready to accept him as a student despite his illegal stay in the country. Peter Jansen, the president of the Johan Cruyff Institute, supported the young talent by providing him an opportunity to learn. Johan Cryuff Institute was a one of its kind school that offered students a chance to strike the perfect balance between education and sports. It was founded by the legendary soccer player, Johan Cruyff, in partnership with ROC van Amsterdam, the biggest high school in Europe.
Frimpong took it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and put in all his efforts to excel at academics as well as athletics. He won the title of ‘‘International Student Athlete of the Year 2007’ and became a role model for a large number of students.
At the age of 15, Akwasi felt an insatiable desire to know what winning feels like when a friend showed him the medal he had won in a race. This was the breakthrough moment for Akwasi and the starting line of his pursuit of excellence. Akwasi practiced hard under the coaching of Sammy Monsels, a former Olympian. His untiring efforts brought him reward in the form of the title of Dutch National Junior Champion in the 200 meters sprints. This was the time when his athletic ability earned him the nickname ‘GoldenSprint’.
However, just like any hero in history, Akwasi faced a major setback. He suffered an ankle injury that derailed his dream of representing the Netherlands and his native country, Ghana, in the Olympics. Being an undocumented immigrant at that time, Akwasi remained unable to get prompt medical attention. Finally, a physiotherapist named Michael Davidson, who had been closely following his record-breaking performances, offered his services for one euro. Despite the efforts of Michael Davidson, Akwasi remained unable to fully recover and run for almost three years.
Akwasi’s entrepreneurial spirit didn’t let him sit back and he sought admission in a university in the US. Utah Valley University awarded him a scholarship and he migrated to the US to chase his dreams. This was the place where Akwasi started running once again. He ran the 100 meter, 200 meter, and 4 X 100 meter race for the university and delivered record-breaking performances. One of his most notable achievements is his performance in the Great West Indoor Championships which earned him a gold medal in 4 X 400 meters race.
In 2013, Akwasi was selected for the Dutch Bobsled team because of his speed and strength. With only one sled qualifying for the 2014 Sochi games for the Netherlands, Akwasi became a second alternate as a brakeman for the Dutch team. In 2013, a sculpture of Akwasi was constructed in Amsterdam. In the U.S., an athletic race titled “The GoldenSprint Challenge” was also organized in honor of him.
Currently, Akwasi is founding the first Ghana Bobsled and Skeleton Federation, under whose flag he hopes to write history for Ghana by competing in the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
“Ghana has never won an Olympic gold medal before and Akwasi is determined not to only to write history as the first skeleton athlete from Ghana to compete in the Winter Olympics, but also by bringing Ghana’s very first Olympic Gold medal home from the 2022 Beijing Olympics.”
“What you need for success is already planted deep down inside of you. The root of your success starts in believing in yourself, then it is nurtured with a positive attitude, and then hard work and persistence will bring your success to reality.” — Akwasi Frimpong