Sunyani (B/A), Aug. 28, GNA - The Maria Tsakos Foundation based in the United States of America in conjunction with the Ghana Athletes Association have contributed a total of 104 million cedis towards the promotion of the 24th edition of the Ghana Schools and Colleges Athletics Championship which began at Sunyani in the Brong-Ahafo Region on Saturday, August 27.
According to a press statement issued from the National Secretariat of the Physical Education (PE) Directorate of the GES released in Sunyani, the Foundation contributed 91 million cedis and the Ghana Athletes Association also donated 13 million cedis.
The sponsorship deal according to the statement "is part of the larger five-year sponsorship package of 455 million cedis for athletics secured by the Athletes Association last year".
According to the Chairman of the US-based Ghana Athletes Association, Dr. Andrew Owusu, the total money will go primarily towards prize incentives for athletes in the Schools' Festival with the rest of the amount used to supplement organizational costs. For the first time all medal winners will be honoured with prizes in addition to a medals and certificates.
Dr. Owusu said that four special awards worth six million cedis each covering bursary and sports kit will be presented in two categories.
The categories are "best track athlete" (boy/girl) and "best field athlete" (boy/girl).
The statement indicated that the 13 million cedis of the total package was donated jointly by Mr. Nti-Berko, Mr. Emmanuel Osabutey, Mr. Marc Dzradosi and Dr Owusu, all former Ghanaian athletes who are desirous in helping the young athletes to develop their career. Dr Owusu said that, "the Athletes Association believes the foundation of athletics in Ghana has been ignored long enough and as such the need to focus on secondary school athletes".
He said that assisting Secondary school athletes "is the launching pad from which almost every one of our elite athletes came from and it is about time we acknowledge and support it", adding that, the Foundation and the Association "see this support as a long term investment aimed at increasing the number of athletes who are capable of making the transition to the national level.
Dr Owusu said that the secondary school system is the pivot of developing Ghana athletics stressing that, "since the current and past national athletes passed through the secondary school system, increase in number of elite secondary school athletes and all things being equal, the number of national and subsequently international level athletes should also increase".
Dr Owusu, however, said that the Foundation and the Association "does not want to lose the value of education in the process. Ideally, we will like to see these students excel both in the classroom and on the field.
He said the Foundation and the Association would therefore look forward to working with the Ministry of Education and Sports to institute a separate but related long term programme that would provide financial support to cover bursary and sports equipment for elite secondary school athletes for whom an education is also a priority. "Even as the nation pushes for more laurels in athletics, we want to encourage our young athletes to also invest in their future after sports through education", Dr. Owusu added. 28 Aug. 05