Ghanaian athletes recorded mixed fortunes last weekend with top performers Ignatius Gaisah and Vida Anim making a modest start to the outdoor season, while multitalented Ruky Abdulai made the biggest splash with stellar performances at the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Championship in Fresno, California.
It is that time of the season when world indoor and African long jump champion Gaisah and Anim, the reigning African sprints queen are expected to step up gear in the IAAF circuit ahead of the All Africa Games in Algiers next July, but both of them fell short of their own high standard at the THALES FBK-Games at Hengelo, the Netherlands.
Anim, making her first appearance on the IAAF World Tour, finished the women's 100m race in seventh position in a time of 11.80 seconds. American Melissa Barber won the race in 11.31 seconds.
Gaisah, making his second appearance on the World Tour, fared no better. He finished in fourth position with a jump of 7.86 metres behind Panama's Irving Saladino (8.53m), Cuban Luis Méliz Felipe (8.03m) and Brian Johnson of USA (7.97m).
However, at the Fresno Pacific University in California, Ruky was simply awesome as she turned on the style with a gold medal haul.
A third-year arts and criminology major at the Simon Fraser University in Canada, she brought home titles in the women's 400 metres and long jump last Saturday to add to the long jump title she won three days earlier.
Daughter of former Accra Hearts of Oak and Black Stars goalkeeper, Abdulai Chesco, 21-year-old Ruky became the first athlete to win the long jump and high jump double in the NAIA history.
Had she been a Canadian citizen, her long jump record would have obliterated the Canadian record of 6.66m set by Nicole Devonish in 1996.
The SFU Clan superstar's winning long jump of 6.70 metres last Thursday set a new meet record — the ninth best in the world this year, according to the IAAF. She set a new personal best with a 1.85-metre effort in the high jump, just off the NAIA meet record of 1.89m. Then in the 400 metres, she beat top-ranked Sherene Pinnock of Oklahoma City, breaking the tape in a time of 52.40 seconds.
She also holds the NAIA women's long jump record with a personal best of 6.79m set at the last year's championship.
Ruky, a promising athlete whose talent was first discovered and honed on the Ohene Djan tracks by the late Willie Williams of Wheels Track and Field Club, has however not been captured on the radar of the national athletics coach as she is not yet a part of the national team.
Nevertheless, her stellar performances in the tough collegiate championships are beginning to turn heads in the USA and Canada. The short sprints may not be particularly Ruky's strongest events, but she reigns supreme in the jumps, with personal best marks of 6.79m, 1.85m and 12.70 m in the long jump, triple jump and high jump respectively.
In the sprints, her records stand at 13.93sec and 24.34 seconds in the 100m and 200m respectively, 52.40sec for the 400m and 2.16 min for the two-lap race.
She has made the long jump event of the NAIA Championship her personal 'property' since 2005 and it has shown continuously in the other jumps since last year when she won the high jump title in the 2006 Pacific/Canada World Cup.
Story by Maurice Quansah