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Thursday, 15 October 2015 08:46

'Let feedback for Ghana athletics be grounded'

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The Past Athletes Association of Ghana (PAAG) is a key stakeholder in the development of the sport in Ghana and has followed athletics in the country since its inception.

We at PAAG, for obvious reasons, want to see objective and constructive critiques of athletics in Ghana.

One of our main goals is to help athletics in Ghana develop by working with the Ghana Athletics Association (GAA), the only governing body at our disposal for this cause.

We, therefore, encourage all athletics loving bodies and individuals, irrespective of their personal ambitions, to desist from comments that derail our national efforts and worse still demoralise Ghanaian athletes that our nation is trying to develop.

More importantly, we are working very hard to solicit sponsorship from corporate Ghana and we think media headlines like “Bad leadership cost us medals” negate our efforts to bring potential sponsors on board, and it is our athletes and no one else who get hurt. This is even worse when the criticisms in such articles are untrue.

Today the leadership of the GAA is chaired by Prof Dodoo, and in the near future it will be someone else who will have to tap the same sponsorship collaterally.

If we create a bad perception for the GAA, irrespective of who the leadership is, it has a ripple effect on all of us who are putting in all the efforts to make athletics work.

We strongly are against the “Pull-Him-Down” syndrome which is creeping into the athletics fraternity. The PAAG will fight tooth and nail to make sure that this practice does not come to stay.

We at the PAAG have been there, done it and we appreciate how the athletics loving family will want to see athletics gain its rightful position within Ghana sports. But in doing so we should be careful not to destroy our collective efforts.

We believe that the last few years athletics has seen a significant improvement. In the just ended All-African Games, Ghana won eight medals in athletics, and an ADDITIONAL three from para-athletics, meaning that more than half of the nation’s 19 medals came from athletics and para-athletics.

The undisputed fact is that eight-medal effort is the second highest number of medals Ghana has ever won since 1978! Surely, this cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be considered a bad experience for athletics.

And we at PAAG would like to congratulate the athletes and their coaches, and GAA for that matter, for their achievements. We believe this is all part of the rebuilding and rebranding of athletics.

We should all work towards more medals and gold medals in the next major competitions, such as next year’s African Championships, whether there is change in leadership or not.

As much as we at the PAAG support the development of local talent (something we are working hard on) we also believe in the exposure to international competitions.

We believe we all should continue to explore and exploit all the avenues available to help develop out local talents, and even if that means “ferrying” them abroad then so be it.

The policy of “ferrying” potential athletes out has been with us since time immemorial and has had a positive impact on athletics and we believe it will continue to help the development of local talent.

Notable names of “ferried” athletes that come to mind are the likes of Andrew Owusu, Leo Myles-Mills, Vida Anim, Margaret Simpson, Ignisious Gaisah, among many others.

In fact, Ghana holds only four records at the the Africa level, two in the All-Africa Games and two at the African Championships.

The All-Africa Games records are held by the same Prof Francis Dodoo, who heads GAA (1987-triple jump) and Margaret Simpson (2003-heptathlon), while the African Championship records are held by Prof Andrew Owusu (1998-triple jump) and Margaret Simpson (2010-heptathlon).

Not surprisingly, each of these athletes broke the national record while they were foreign-based athletes, living and training outside Ghana. Why do we act now as if athletes being “ferried” out is a new thing.

Even in the 1970s, such athletes as George Daniels and Ohene Karikari, were left to go out and, for many, it is a way to further their education. So, the calls not to give athletes those opportunities any more is misguided.

After all, our football players go and we gladly welcome them back to play for the Black Stars, don’t we?

So, all of these people were local discoveries who were “ferried” out and the results are there for all to see.

At the last All-Africa Games, we saw home-grown and very recently-“ferried-out” athletes such as John Ampomah (silver-javelin), Atsu Nyamadi (silver-decathlon), Janet Amponsah (silver-4x100m), Emmanuel Dasor (bronze-4x100m), Daniel Gyasi (bronze-4x100m), Solomon Afful (bronze-4x100m) and Elizabeth Dadzie (6th-100m hurdles and injured in heptathlon) come back and make Ghana proud.

None of them has been gone for even three years, so to act as if they were not home-grown was disingenuous. We cannot afford to stop these young men and women from availing themselves of the opportunity to further their life potential in colleges outside. It would be wicked to do so.

Even though they had been “ferried” out, they came back when Ghana called them and combined so well with their still-home-based teammates, Mary Zuta (silver-javelin), Beatrice Gyaman (silver-4x100m), Shepherd Agbeko (bronze 4x100m), George Effah (5th-4x400m), Kwadwo Acheampong (5th-4x400m), and Dorcas Gyimah (semi-final 200m and 4x100m reserve).

Furthermore, these 13 home-grown athletes blended well with Nadia Eke, Flings Owusu-Agyapong, Alex Amankwah, Jordan Yamoah, Mathilde Boateng, Julia Agawu, and Gemma Acheampong, half of whom were born in Ghana and then followed their parents abroad as children and then came back to make Ghana proud (five of them got medals, one was 4th and another was on the 5th place relay team).

All of these allowed our country to present a very beautiful Ghanaian team, which won the second-most medals we have won since 1978. This is one country and one united team and no trouble makers and divisionists should not try to sow any seeds of divisiveness among them.

In concluding, the PAAG will also like to point out that the suggestions that these athletes are not mentored or monitored is patently false; throughout the season, all the way from January, weekly results from the athletes were shared among the athletic family, and even in some newspapers.

Talking to any of the athletes will also reveal how much mentoring they get from the GAA.

The PAAG encourages all athletics loving people to stop the false negativity and work together as a collective body to support the GAA for the greater good of the sport and Ghana.

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