I’ve known Akwasi Frimpong for the past 16 years now.At the age of eight, Frimpong joined his mother Esther Amoako, the famous Ghanaian gospel singer, in the Netherlands.I remember the first time I came into contact with Akwasi and his brother Kofi when they first came from Ghana in 1995 if my memory serves me right.We attended the same church and grew up together in one of Amsterdam’s most deadliest neighbourhoods- the Bijlmer, where focus and determination are very rare in one’s diction.
|Akwasi with girlfriend Kimberly Willems|
The Bijlmer has one of the highest crime rates in Europe and a teen can easily be influenced to sell drugs.But Akwasi(alias Golden Sprint) was so determined to make it in life.Patience is one of the virtues I’ve seen in Akwasi.He had to fight so many years for his Dutch citizenship.The process took 13 more years, and a monumental effort by his many supporters. He finally earned his residency permit in 2007, and gained Dutch nationality in 2008.He knew he could achieve much, even with little resources, as long as he kept believing in himself.
Frimpong actually didn’t start running until he was 15 years old, when a friend showed him a medal he’d won in a race. Frimpong wanted one, so, in 2001, he started running under former Olympian Sammy Monsels. By 2003, he was the Dutch National Junior Champion in the 200 meter sprints.
From there, his Olympic aspirations began. But in late 2004, an ankle injury derailed his Olympic dreams. Because he was an undocumented immigrant, no doctor would treat him. Finally, physiotherapist Michael Davidson, who had been following his story, offered his services for one euro. He treated Frimpong, but it took three long years before he was fully recovered.
Still, once the physical recovery was complete, the mental part was not. Frimpong had lost some of his speed, and the toll of being a nomad was wearying.
About that time, he met some study-abroad students from America and heard about running opportunities there. He sent his athletic profile to Utah Valley University Track Coach Scott Houle in Orem, Utah, and was offered a scholarship.
He started at UVU in 2008, and runs the 100 meter, 200 meter and 4X100 meter relay for the university. In May 2010, Frimpong helped the relay team break the school record during the 2010 Great West Conference Championships, with a time of 41.05 seconds.
Because of the opportunity to train at UVU, Frimpong renewed his Olympic dream to represent the Netherlands in 2012. But first, Frimpong must run the 200 meter in 20.40 seconds and the 100 meter in 10.20 seconds to qualify. Before his ankle injury, he ran the 100 meter at 10.32 seconds (hand timed), but since the injury, he’s had to work backward from 11 seconds — a huge stretch for a sprinter. He’s now running the 100 meters in 10.66 seconds. He has up until two months before the Olympics to qualify, but he has to run the qualifying times in two different Olympic qualification races, and be ranked as one of the top six 100 meter runners in the Netherlands. Last year, he was ranked 70. In 2010, he jumped to the number six spot.
Frimpong earned the nickname “GoldenSprint” after he received the Michael Johnson golden spikes (sprint shoes) from Monsels in 2002, and won the gold medal in 2003. According to Frimpong, it’s not just about winning a gold medal, but being the best you can be and aiming for the highest in life.
“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,” Frimpong says of his nickname. “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, hard work and persistence, and that will bring your success to reality.”