FILE PHOTO: Skeleton – Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics – Men’s Competition – Olympic Sliding Centre - Pyeongchang, South Korea – February 15, 2018 - Akwasi Frimpong of Ghana in action during the heat. REUTERS/Edgar Su/File Photo
January 12, 2022
(Reuters) – African winter sports athletes will suffer a “crushing blow” unless the International Olympic Committee (IOC) reinstates continental quota spots in bobsleigh and skeleton for the 2022 Beijing Games, sliding sports coaches have said.
Ghana’s Akwasi Frimpong and Nigeria’s Simidele Adeagbo became the first African skeleton racers to compete at the Olympics in 2018 thanks to the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation’s (IBSF) continental quota system.
However, the system was dropped for next month’s Beijing Olympics, raising the possibility that no African athletes will compete in either event.
Coaches Brian McDonald and Zach Lund wrote to the IOC last month to request the reinstatement of the quotas to avoid inflicting “a crushing blow to African athletes”.
“The importance of African representation in Winter Olympic sport is of utmost importance to the Olympic movement,” the letter said.
“Currently, the Olympic sliding sports will be without any African representation after immensely popular participation in the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang.
“We should not allow Olympic sport to take a step backward in terms of the inclusion of African nations successfully competing in the Winter Olympic Games.”
Frimpong needed to be ranked in the top 60, five places above his current ranking, to qualify for Beijing but his chances faded when he tested positive for COVID-19 and missed two qualifying races.
Four years ago, he qualified for the Pyeongchang Games via the quota system despite being ranked 99th in the world.
“There are currently no athletes in either the Olympic sports of bobsled or skeleton, and in fact, very few in all Olympic sports, who have as large a following as Akwasi Frimpong of Ghana,” Lund and McDonald added in their letter.
“The IOC would be remiss to fail to capitalise on this opportunity to once again grow the sport.”
Adeagbo, who is attempting to qualify in the new Olympic monobob event, is currently ranked 37th in the Women’s Monobob World Series and is also set to miss out in Beijing.
McDonald told ABC that the IOC had not responded to the letter but the IBSF has contacted Frimpong to say they will discuss his situation.
(Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)