I’m throwing back to the African University Games (FASU) June, 2016 Johannesburg, South Africa. The Kwame Nkrumah University of Science of Technology (KNUST) quartet which included Martin Owusu-Antwi and Joseph Paul Amoah surprised many by clinching gold ahead of favourites and the then defending Ghana University Sports Association (GUSA) champions the University of Education Winneba (UEW).
Indeed, 2016 was a watershed moment in Ghana athletics with the Ghana Athletics Association (GAA) organising as many as 12 major competitions locally, plus others from GUSA, the Ghana Education Service (G.E.S) and others.
Fast forward 3 years later, Martin and Joseph-now with Coppin State University, USA-played sterling roles as Ghana won gold in the 4x100m relay at Rabat 2019. i.e. 16-years after Ghana last won gold in the 4x100m relay at the Abuja 2003 All African Games. I was overly impressed with the output of the University of Ghana Legon and GUSA sprint king Benjamin Kwaku Azamati, and the great start and experience provided by the UK born Sean Safo-Antwi. The common denominator among 3 of the boys is: they have all experienced University sports in Ghana. All three also came through schools and colleges sports making nonsense of the notion that InterCo (Inter Colleges and Schools sports) is dead!
I think University sports is the new frontier for sports development because of the changes in our educational system. The major universities are all offering sports scholarships to our athletes.
But we just did not get here. There has been a conscious drive by the GAA and others to develop talent and put together a system that works. Albeit, it has taken years to see results. Let me ask a question: how do you replace athletics greats such as Margaret Simpson and Ignisious Gaisah? My answer: it is almost impossible.
Well, that was exactly the challenge the GAA, of which I have served in various roles encountered in 2012. Various models have been used: the rLG Grand Prix was birthed in 2011 and held again in 2012. Top athletes such as Tianna Madison of the USA( a long jump silver medalist and a 4x100m relay gold medalists at London 2012 Olympics), Terrel Wilks(USA) Oshane Bailey(Jamaica), South Africa’s Luvo Manyonga, a 2017 IAAF Worlds long jump champion, participated in the event alongside both our foreign and locally based athletes.
The exposure from these events held in Kumasi were great. The GAA’s Youth Policy was also instituted, plus an increased number of competitions locally. Over 60 Ghanaian athletes are on scholarships in the USA through this youth policy.
Ghana has been rewarded with medals at the African Championships, All African Games, African Youth Championships, Commonwealth Games and CYC, and Youth Olympics. Ultimately, everybody wants medals at the World Championships and Olympics. There needs to be more work done to get to this last step.
We will surely get there….
Click for see the KNUST triumph at the FASU Games 2016: