“Johan Cruyff Institute cared about me as an individual despite my status and background”

"Johan Cruyff Institute cared about me as an individual despite my status and background”

Akwasi Frimpong, Ghana’s greatest hope for a medal at the 2022 Olympic Games in skeleton, embodies the profile of athlete at whom The Cruyff Athlete Fund scholarship campaign is aimed

Akwasi is a former student of the Johan Cruyff College, the middle school training center of the Johan Cruyff Institute, and has turned a life of difficulties into his maximum motivation to succeed and become an example and inspiration for the entire African continent

“The root of your success starts in believing in yourself, then it’s nurtured with a positive actitude, hard work and persistence, and that will bring your success to reality”. These might sound like empty words if they did not come from a man who has made his life a dream, his life experience the reason for his nonconformity, his difficulties in life a step toward the search for opportunities, and his misfortune a blessing. Fifteen years of unremitting struggle to see himself become who he is now: Ghana’s biggest hope for a medal at the 2022 Winter Olympics and an inspiration for the entire African continent.

Akwasi Frimpong - Johan Cruyff InstituteAkwasi Frimpong was born 32 years ago in Ghana. His is the story of a boy who spent the first eight years of his life sharing a one-room house with his grandmother and nine other children. It is the story of an immigrant who fought for 13 years to get a residence permit in the Netherlands, where he arrived to be with his mother. It is the story of a boy who, inspired by a friend, experienced the need to know what it means to win. It is the story of an athlete who, based on sacrifice and perseverance under the most unfavorable circumstances, has managed to make history.

As a former student of the Johan Cruyff Institute in his years at Johan Cruyff College Amsterdam, Akwasi Frimpong embodies all those values present in our CSR campaign, The Cruyff Athlete Fund, a scholarship fund for active professional athletes in minority disciplines, and those about to retire or already retired who need support to make the transition to the sports industry. Akwasi started competing in athletics at the age of 15 and stood out as a sprinter, but a serious injury kept him away from the track for three years. Since then, he has never stopped racing. After a brief stint in bobsleigh, he finally opted for skeleton and competed at the South Korean Winter Games in 2018. His ultimate goal now is to win a gold medal for his country, Ghana, at the 2022 Winter Olympics. He has four years ahead of him and a whole continent behind him. He is their hope, ‘The Hope of a Billion’, a movement in support of “more than a billion Africans who have been told that their dreams are not possible,” he claims.

We invite you to discover a little more about the story of Akwasi Frimpong, also known as GoldenSprint, through his own words.

Akwasi Frimpong - Johan Cruyff Institute

There is a constant in your sports career and in your life: ‘Never give up’. What are you most proud of?

I’m proud of going after my Olympic dream for the third time and inspiring the whole continent of Africa!  Plus of sharing the message with people all over the world that they should come out of their comfort zones and dare to dream.

You received the Johan Cruyff Institute Student Athlete Award in 2007. It all started at the Johan Cruyff College. How do you remember those times?

Johan Cruyff institute cared about me as an individual despite my status and background. It was a fun and safe place to be at during some really tough moments for me growing up in Holland.

You lead various projects and have built an image that has made you your best ambassador. Would your success in sport have been possible without the effort you have put into your education to make a name for yourself in the sports industry?

I compete in a sport that is not well known. But I learned at the Johan Cruyff Institute the power of personal branding and through my personal struggles in the Netherlands, instead of feeling like a victim, I wanted to change the negative into something positive and show what I had to offer. Without learning about personal branding I wouldn’t have found the support and sponsors I have today.

Akwasi Frimpong - Johan Cruyff Institute

Do you think that all athletes have a responsibility for the image they project in society?

It is important to work on your personal goals and dreams, but at a certain point in life it can’t just be about you. If you’re not helping someone else to get better, what is the point?

Looking at your career, one could say that there are no majority or minority sports, that everything depends on the importance you yourself give to what you do. Is that right?

A tough one. Some sports just don’t get the exposure they deserve until the Olympics. More has to be done by federations to promote their sports. I think I’m contributing in promoting the winter sport of skeleton. But everything requires team work, proper planning and execution.

But there are athletes with more or less resources. On what have you built your success? How do you want to inspire others?

On the power of believing in myself and surrounding myself with like-minded people. Some people are born with a silver spoon in their mouth. Others just have to work that much harder. Everyone has their own perspective, you just have to want it badly enough to go all out and get what you want without making excuses.

Akwasi Frimpong - Hope - Johan Cruyff InstituteHow and where did the ‘Hope of a Billion’ campaign come from?

After I became Ghana’s first skeleton Olympian in 2018, I wanted to take it further than just inspiring 27 million people. I want to inspire 1.2 million Africans and make a bigger impact. Being the ‘Hope of a Billion’ is being an example for more than a billion Africans who have been told their dreams are not possible. I want to be an example that any dream—whether it’s being a doctor, a lawyer or an Olympian—is possible with hard work, dedication and perseverance. Hope of a Billion is setting a goal to do the unthinkable. For me, it is becoming the first African to win a medal in the Winter Olympics. Being that example is one of the things that makes me work so hard, because everything worth doing requires hard work. It’s becoming the HOPE for a billion underdogs who refuse to give up on their dreams.

You founded the Ghanaian Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation, you spend a lot of time helping young people in Holland and you are involved in several aid projects in the United States. Where do you get so much energy?

Through the inspiration of desperation you become more creative. I had to start from the bottom and through my struggles I gained more creativity, energy and inspiration. And again at a certain point in life it can’t just be about you. If you’re not helping someone get better, what is the point?

Your next goal is to give Ghana a medal at the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing. Maybe that will be the last big event in your sports career. What plans do you have for afterwards?

There are a lot of opportunities. Lots of different athletes have reached out to me to teach them more about personal branding. Starting in December 2018, I’m launching my own Sportswear brand called “Frimpong”, and I want to continue to help promote winter sports in Africa, by getting more young kids to do it. And maybe do more consulting via my company, Golden Events Management. But now the focus is on working hard over the next four years to win a medal.

The Cruyff Athlete Fund aims to help athletes develop a dual career and create a future in the sports business. What do you think that this type of initiative contributes?

Athletes are the best mentors out there. And they will do well in the sports business. They are the right people for it. Athletes have perseverance , they are good with time management, they know how to deal with failures, they are accountable and they put the team first. These are all things that are important in the work field. And The Cruyff Athlete Fund will contribute to athletes no longer being afraid to get a job after their sport careers.

 

The Cruyff Athlete Fund by Johan Cruyff Institute

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