Skeleton might not be the primary sport that springs to mind when you think of Ghana. But Dutch-Ghanian athlete Akwasi Frimpong wants to change that. A former champion sprinter and Ghana’s first skeleton Olympian, Akwasi is the first African athlete to win an elite skeleton event. While zooming down the frozen track, he uses his passion for skeleton to represent not just a country, but a continent, as he chases his dream of being an Olympic medalist.
Now available: Black Ice, the story of Akwasi Frimpong channeling his human spirit to defy the odds of winning Ghana’s first medal at the Winter Olympics. A challenge that demands all of his bravery, passion and strength. Unfortunately, a COVID-19 infection will prevent him from chasing his dream of an Olympic medal in Beijing in 2022. But Akwasi is far from done and he will keep his focus on the factors he can control: hard work and dedication.
Because the words his grandmother had instilled in him as a child back in Ghana still echo through his head: “What you need for success, is already within you.” This in mind, there’s little doubt that he will come back firing on all cylinders when he qualifies for his second Winter Olympics after already competing in the 2018 games.
Watch the full film.
How did your passion for bobsled and skeleton start?
I was recruited for bobsled and skeleton thanks to my speed as a sprinter. I missed out on being part of the Netherlands 4 x 100m Olympic relay team for London 2012, so when this opportunity came up I decided to keep chasing my Olympic dreams and compete in skeleton for Ghana.
What made you want to train to a professional level?
I love the challenge and adrenaline rush of the sport. But more than that, I want to give back to my country and inspire kids from Ghana and Africa to step out of their comfort zones and dream. I competed in my first Winter Olympics in 2018 and afterwards I saw what it could mean not only to Ghanians but to 1.2 billion people in Africa too. So I decided to continue training and I’m currently preparing for Beijing 2022.
How do you train to be an Olympic skeleton athlete?
It’s like training to be a sprinter! There’s a lot of running, sprinting and weightlifting. Speed is crucial for the first 50 meters of the skeleton competition where you have to push your sled very fast before diving on to it and navigating down the ice at 80 - 90mph with your chin inches from the ice.
Can you tell us about a race that taught you a few lessons in this sport?
At a competition in 2020 my helmet did not fit well. I had left it too long on a heater and the foam inside had swelled and bulged. I didn’t find out until I was at the start of my run and I had 30 seconds to calm myself down and get the job done. I could have panicked, but I pushed through and secured my first elite skeleton race win.
Do you have a special pre-race ritual?
I like to get to the changing room in time. I meditate a little bit, listen to music or motivational talks, do a pre warm-up and calm myself before doing an actual race warm-up.
Is nutrition a big focus for you? And, what would you say is your go-to meal after a tough run?
Nutrition is very important for me. I’ll have a protein bar 30 minutes to an hour after training and then follow that with a good meal. I am not very picky about my food but I do try to keep it as healthy as possible. My go-to meal after a tough run is usually something like chicken or fish with salad, potatoes, couscous, etc.
What are your top tips for a speedy recovery after training?
Using a recovery boot, foam rolling and, if possible, a massage and ice bath. That last one is a tough one in the winter though, sliding in the cold and then doing an ice bath treatment.
Who is your “team”?
I’m the only one sliding headfirst on the skeleton as a slider. But behind the scenes I have a lot of great people supporting me - including On, who encourage me daily as an athlete. As a small nation athlete from Africa competing in an untraditional sport, I am collaborating with the Russian Skeleton Team, and I have a team of people in Ghana and the USA supporting me. And, of course, my wife and daughters are always behind me, pushing me to achieve my best results.
Apart from skeleton, what are your passions?
I love spending time with my wife and our two daughters. I write blogs and give motivational talks all over the world. I also volunteer at a homeless shelter and am an alumni board member for my former college.
What’s your favorite On shoe and why?
The Cloudflow - it has a great fit both for running and traveling.
What’s your favorite item of On apparel and why?
I love the On Running pants. They fit great and I love that they are lightweight but also warm and stylish.
Finally, why On?
On decided to come on a journey with me as a skeleton athlete training for my second Olympics and their products are high quality and comfortable. As a company, On has a winning mentality and a team mindset. I want to be a part of that culture.