It isn’t often you see an African man in a leopard-print ski jacket on Blackcomb’s Horstman Glacier.
We’ve all seen the movie Cool Runnings, which tells the story of the Jamaican Bobsleigh team and their quest for the 1988 Olympic Winter Games in Calgary. This winter, the eyes of the world will be on Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong, Ghana’s first and only Olympic skier.
I was lucky enough to meet Kwame and his family when they visited Whistler recently for a TV project I was helping coordinate. Humble and down to Earth, Kwame handles his blossoming fame with grace – and a lot of humour.
The Scottish-born, Ghanian-raised skier says he’s always been an athlete, participating in just about every sport you can think of. But, it wasn’t until he moved back to the UK as an adult and worked part-time at an indoor ski slope that he developed his passion for skiing. From the dry slopes to the real slopes, he’s come a long way, having recently obtained the correct number of points to guarantee his spot in the Olympics, requirements set out by the World Skiing Federation.
While “Snow Leopard” isn’t a name Kwame came up with (it was a nickname coined by a UK journalist), he’s made the most of his new found fame. The Snow Leopard has captured the hearts of the British and Ghanian fans and now he’s come to Canada to mark his territory. Kwame’s trip to Whistler included meeting a few of Canada’s past and future Olympians, experiencing Whistler’s summer activities, checking out the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola and Horstman Glacier, and perhaps even taking a sneak peak at a certain downhill course.
Now that he’s experienced Whistler, Kwame says he’s even more motivated to amp up his training for the Olympics. It’s going to be a busy six months for the Snow Leopard, but he’s already envisioning himself at the bottom of the run throwing his helmet and gloves into the crowd and raising his hands in victory.
Without a big athlete budget to draw from, Kwame is mainly self-funded. He’s come up with a creative way to gather sponsorship dollars. He’s having a snow leopard ski suit designed for his debut in 2010 and is selling off the spots. For just £5 you could have your name on a leopard spot. That way, all his friends, family and fans can be with him on his Olympic journey.
PUBLICATION: Whistler Is Awesome