Akwasi Frimpong: more than a number
Akwasi Frimpong has been training in skeleton for a little over a year and, in incredible fashion, has qualified as the first ever West-African man to compete in the sport at the 2018 Winter Olympics. Seeing as it takes most athletes six to eight years to become proficient in the sport, this accomplishment is very telling of exactly how competitive Frimpong is. His story begins long before training as a skeleton athlete, and even sooner than his arrival at UVU to compete in track and field.
Frimpong was born in Kumasi, Ghana and lived in very humble conditions. Soon he would migrate to the Netherlands and take advantage of opportunities there to shine as a sprinter in track and field. However, during his time there it was hard for him to shake the label of being an illegal immigrant.
“I began playing sports because I wanted to prove to Netherlands immigration and to people that I was more than a number, that I could give back to the country through playing sports, Frimpong said. “I wanted to prove that illegal immigrants are worth something if you give them the chance. Not only did I want to prove that to the Netherlands, I wanted to prove it to the rest of the world.”.
After taking the title of Dutch Junior Champion in sprinting, Frimpong suffered a fairly serious ankle injury. It took a long time for him to recover, and during that time Frimpong studied out universities in the United States. It didn’t take long for UVU to discover that he was something special, so he was offered an athletic scholarship.
Frimpong found much success during his time at UVU but looked to compete at the next level. Having his eyes set on the 2012 Summer Olympics, he continued to battle an injury and couldn’t overcome the challenge to qualify. He spent a short time wanting to compete on the Dutch bobsled team but the dream was short-lived. Soon enough, he and his wife moved to Arizona, and Frimpong began selling vacuums. That experience was also one that would not last very long.
“My wife didn’t want me to be 99 years old and still complaining about me not achieving my Olympic dream. So we left our house behind and we went for it,” Frimpong said.
Again Frimpong would look to compete in the Winter Olympics — but not in the bobsled. In November 2016, he began training in the sport and originally had his eyes set on the 2022 Winter Olympics. With the help of the USA Olympic coaching staff and his sponsor DoTerra, along with a lot of intensive training, Frimpong’s opportunity to represent Ghana would come four years earlier.
“I’ve been dreaming of the olympics now for a very long time. I’ve missed the Olympics twice, but I think that has allowed me to have the mental capacity to work hard and to be resilient,” he said. “I had to learn how to steer the sled, but I didn’t have to learn how to work really hard. Although it was a really tough time for me these passed few years, it’s allowed me to become the person I am today.”.
The Winter Olympic skeleton competition will begin Feb. 15 in PyeongChang, South Korea. When the buzzer rings at the starting line, fans of Frimpong all around the world will be witnessing history as he becomes the first West African ever to compete in the men’s skeleton competition. Frimpong is more than ready to show his fans and the world who he is and what he can do out on the ice.
“I’m grateful that I missed the olympics as a summer athlete; I’m grateful that I missed the olympics as a winter athlete because now I’m doing something where I’m leaving a legacy behind that will outlive me. If failure was the only last step, there wouldn’t be something called success,” Frimpong said.