Unlikeliest Winter Olympians thanks footy legend for rescuing him from streets

Temperatures hit 38 degrees celsius this week in Kumasi, the city in which Akwasi Frimpong began his journey to become one of the unlikeliest of Winter Olympians.

Next week, with the thermometers plunging far below zero in Pyeongchang the 31-year-old Frimpong will become Africa’s first male skeleton athlete to compete at the Games.

He says he has Dutch football superstar Johan Cruyff – who died in 2016 – to thank for rescuing him from a troubled life as an illegal immigrant in Holland, and Lizzy Yarnold for proving that non-Alpine nations can succeed in the sport.

"When I went back to Ghana and told them I wanted to represent them at the Winter Olympics they looked at me like I was crazy – but it didn’t take long to convince them," Frimpong said.

"Look at Lizzy Yarnold – she is a gold medallist and she doesn’t have an ice track. It’s not about where you come from, it’s about how hard you push to get what you want out of life.

"I want to inspire people in Ghana and all over the world to dare to dream. It took me 15 years to get where I am today, and I have proved that persistence and hard work can pay off."

Frimpong spent the first eight years of his life in Ghana, where he lived in a four-foot by five-foot home with his grandmother and nine other siblings, kicking a tin for a football with neighbourhood friends.

He was eventually taken to Holland, where his sprinting prowess caught the attention of the Johan Cruyff Institute, which helped him out of his status as an illegal immigrant.

Frimpong remained firm friends with Cruyff until the latter’s death from lung cancer in 2016.

After moving to college in Utah in the United States, injury put paid to Frimpong’s track career and led him to bobsleigh, in which he represented Holland before taking the opportunity to switch to skeleton.


Frimpong added: "I have three ambitions for Pyeongchang – to break barriers and show that black people can be a part of winter sports, to make history for my country, and to prepare for the 2022 Games.

"I want to break the stereotype of ‘Cool Runnings’ and go one step further. I am realistic it is not going to happen in 2018 but I want to go to the 2022 Games and win.

"I am very optimistic person but I believe I won’t just be competing in Beijing. It’s all about challenging the unknown and daring to dream."

Source: https://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/other-sports/unlikeliest-winter-olympians-football-legend-11973847

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