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04.08.2002 Sports News

Why One Medal Equals Success:

By Andrew Owusu
Why One Medal Equals Success:
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Athletics at C’wealth Games Readers who may have read the article “25 + 29 = 1……Only in Ghana” may believe that Ghana’s participation in the 2002 Commonwealth Games was a total disaster as compared to the 1998 Commonwealth Games. Why? However, I want to prove to critics such as the author of that article , who claims to be an athlete, that his/her way of using “fuzzy math” to prove that Ghana failed again is far from an objective analysis. I cannot speak for all of the sports at the Commonwealth Games. However, as the comparison of the number of track and field athletes and medals in the 1998 and 2002 Games, respectively, shows, our athletes in that sport should be commended for their outstanding performances: 1998 Kuala Lumpur: 14 athletes* + 5 officials = 1 medal 2002 Manchester: 5 athletes* + 3 officials = 1 medal *Track and Field Any objective individual should quickly realize that despite all the turmoil surrounding the selection of athletes prior to the games, the results achieved in Manchester supersedes that of Kuala Lumpur. Yet the author of the above mentioned article has the guts to state that “despite his high rankings in the world list, sprinter Abdul Aziz Zakari failed to win anything in the 100 or 200m”. Where on earth did he/she get such facts from? First of all, two weeks prior to the Commonwealth Games, Zakari was ranked 31st in 100m and greater than 20th in 200m in the world. These are not exactly “high” world rankings. Secondly, in Manchester, Zakari narrowly missed the 100m final by .01 seconds and finished 5th in the 200m with massive season best performance (20.29 secs). How can that be labeled failure “to win anything”? The author of the above mentioned article also refers to another “failure,” “[t]he failure of triple jumper, Andrew Owusu, to emulate or improve upon his own previous silver-winning leap at the 1998 Games”. To this author, I want to say: Do you even realized that had I jumped as far as I did in Kuala Lumpur or 23 centimeters further, I still would have finished 4th in Manchester? Do you realize that it would have taken a personal record, a national record and “almost” a continental record to have won a bronze medal in Manchester? Did you realize that I finished two positions higher than I should have on paper? Can you not even appreciate the fact that the top three finishers in the triple jump, in Manchester, are currently ranked 1st, 2nd and 5th consecutively in the world? Could you not get it in your head that the level of competition at the Commonwealth Games this year was much greater that it has ever been before in events in which Ghana participated? Thank God that we, the athletes of Ghana, put our foot down to ensure that only the best we had as of the Games represented the nation. You seem to mourn for Coach Athuahene yet you fail to clarify that he sat on a selection committee that on three different occasions selected a team not comprising of Ghana’s best ranked athletes (i.e., one not based on merit). In fact, the teams he helped select contained athletes who had already stated that they were unavailable for competition this year. Is it not amazing that a Coach has been indicted for fraud and bribery in connection with the “visa for cash scandal” – not to mention other misappropriations – and yet you seem to suggest that his departure at the request of the athletes may have been a mistake? I tell you what, we the athletes of Ghana pledged to lift our sport out of its abysmal state and by grace of the almighty God, we have moved forward despite all the hurdles we have had to jump over. The one medal that 14 athletes and 5 officials achieved in Kuala Lumpur in 1998, after a one month training tour in Germany with paid allowance, and no major quarrels with officials is not success. What represents TRUE progress is the one medal that 5 athletes and 3 officials achieved in Manchester in 2002, after — may I emphasize – six months of chaos, three scrapped teams, no training camp, and not a pesewa for training. That is what I call hard earned success. Perhaps, your time and money will have served our dear nation well had you chosen to inquire and demand answers when teams were being selected that were not based on merit. Yet here you are, after the fact, spewing out “fuzzy math” calculations that stink of politics. My fellow athletes and I made a pledge to help reform Ghana athletics, and we plan to see it through. Indeed, the Minister of Youth and Sports, the Acting Chief Executive of the National Sports Council and the President of the Ghana Olympic Committee met with representatives of the Ghana Athletes Association here in Manchester and in those meetings, have pledged their support to see that athletics (and sports as a whole in Ghana) is restructured. Meetings held with these officials have resulted in the initiation and proposals of significant changes to athletics – organization and support services. Unlike in past years, some of the promises made by the Minister of Youth and Sports, the Acting Chief Executive of the National Sports Council and the President of the Ghana Olympic Committee have already been put in action. Finally, your article misrepresented the number of officials in the Ghanaian Commonwealth team. Your article heading “25 + 29 = 1…Only in Ghana”, should have read 25 + 17 = 1…only in Ghana. Had you bothered to do any objective inquiries, you would have found out that the true number of officials associated with the different teams at the tax payers expense, is 17 plus the Minister for Youth and Sports. The other 12 comprises of Ghana Olympic Committee members, and officiating individuals who were flown in by international federations such as the Commonwealth Games Federation, and the International Association of Athletic Associations and the International Boxing Federation. Thus, Ghanaian tax payers did not support the travel of all 29 Ghanaian officials. Trust me, if the number of officials associated with the team had been as much as you indicated, we the athletes, would have been the first to scream foul. Just for reference, below is the number of officials Ghana had in different sports in Games: - Athletics 3 - Boxing 3 - Badminton 2 - Judo 2 - Weight Lifting 1 - Team Doctors 2 - Masseurs 2 - Chef de Mission 1 - General Team Manager 1 Therefore, rather than the athletes (and officials) in the Ghanaian Commonwealth team, disappointment should be directed at individuals like you and the many others who sat on the sidelines even as Ghana Athletes Association pointed out the many weaknesses and problems with athletics. It is sad that as a country we cannot objectively evaluate our potential prior to major championships. Our expectations always seem to greatly exceed reality. We yearn for medals yet refuse to commit the resources that are necessary to achieve them. How can we demand returns without and substantial investment? It seems that unlike in the past, the athletes were the only ones to get it right this time. We predicted the results even before the Games and its amazing how close we were. Commonwealth Rankings

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