Saturday, March 14, 2009

African skier qualifies for Winter Olympics

A Glasgow-born African skier who only saw snow for the first time five years ago has qualified for the Winter Olympics.

Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong /Rex

Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong, 33, nicknamed the Snow Leopard, is the first Ghanaian ever to qualify for the games, reports the Daily Telegraph.

Mr Nkrumah-Acheampong was born in Glasgow while his father was a student in the city, but was raised in Ghana without ever seeing a snowflake.

After moving back to Britain as a student in 2002, he was introduced to snow after becoming a receptionist at a ski centre with an indoor real-snow slope at Milton Keynes.

The father-of-two said: "All I had ever known about skiing was watching a James Bond film, so it really just took off from there.

"The coaches said I had a natural talent and I've never found skiing difficult. But it has been a hard fight.

"Even now, when I go to big events, there are people who refuse to believe that an African can ski. They sort of stare and shout, 'Here comes the strange man.' But that is to be expected.

"These Winter Olympics will be my last chance, so hopefully I will leave a legacy that has changed people's views of African skiers."

His last four winters have been spent in the Italian Alps, funded by summer jobs around Milton Keynes, and by the work of his wife, Sena, at the Open University.

This winter he finally racked up 140 points, the season-long tally required to guarantee a place at next year's Winter Olympics in Vancouver. He will be eligible to compete for the slalom and giant slalom.

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