After graduating from Utah Valley University in 2013, marketing major and track athlete Akwasi Frimpong took to the business world to begin his professional career, leaving his athletic career behind. Though he had accomplished some great things for the UVU track and field team, Frimpong decided to see what he could accomplish in the professional world. Now, after three years away from sports, Frimpong has retaken the athlete mantle. Instead of running on a track, he’s now running on ice, as he attempts to become the first skeleton athlete to represent Ghana in the history of the winter Olympic Games.
Frimpong isn’t a complete stranger to winter sports. During his last year in college, he became a part of the Dutch national bobsled team, having grown up in the Netherlands. That experience lasted only a year before he was no longer involved with the team, but his coach during that time had a big impact on what he’s doing now.
“I got married and all that kind of stuff so I was really focusing on life and I was really debating if I wanted to go back into sports because my dream had always been to make it into the Olympics,” he said. “For two and a half to three years, I didn’t really do much with sports, but I always stayed in contact with my national bobsled coach and she always told me to get into skeleton. I talked to my wife about it a couple of times and she definitely motivated me to give it a try because she doesn’t want me to be 90 years old and still complaining.”
Frimpong’s journey as a skeleton athlete is just beginning. As far as actually sliding goes, he’s only been doing it for about a month. However, his background as a track athlete has put him on a bit of a fast track as a beginner skeleton athlete.
“A lot of the bobsled, and especially skeleton, recruits come from track and field. We have to do a 50-meter sprint before we hop on the sled, so that’s where races are won,” said Frimpong. “Once you become a good driver, it really depends how good you are at the start and being a fast starter definitely helps a lot for your time at the bottom. Sprinters definitely have a good advantage once they become good drivers.”
In his first international competition, Frimpong placed 25th out of 28 athletes.
“That doesn’t sound great, but in our sport for a beginner that’s pretty good,” he said. “It put Ghana on the map, and I think that was a great accomplishment. I’m definitely not the best out there yet, but it’s a sport where you can’t expect that right away. It takes a lot of time to learn how to steer a skeleton while you’re going 80 to 90 miles per hour without a wheel or anything to steer but you use just your shoulders and knees.”
Though there is a slim chance that he could qualify for the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, the time span that it usually takes athletes to become proficient at an Olympic level in the skeleton event (six to eight years) has him looking more to the 2022 games in Beijing.
“I may have a chance in 2018, but I don’t talk about it much because I’m a competitive guy,” said Frimpong. “I want to be going against the big dogs, so that’s why the goal is 2022 so I have more time to get better.”
I grew up on a farm in Burley, Idaho, but I’ve always had an intense love of sports. I’m studying journalism in an attempt to turn my love into a career. I’m a huge Utah Jazz, Tennessee Titans, and San Jose Sharks fan. If it’s a sport, I’ll watch it.