[대한뉴스=조셉 리 기자] 동계올림픽은 추위를 잊으며 자국의 국기를 달고 인간의 한계에 도전하는 선수들의 꿈과 땀을 통해 세계인들은 감동하며 울고 웃는다.
그럼 이번 평창 동계올림픽에 참가한 선수들 중 최고의 인기스타는 누구였을까? 올림픽 신기록을 낸 여러 금메달리스트들이 있지만, 단연 가나(Ghana) 스켈레톤 선수 악와시 프림퐁(Akwasi Frimpong)을 꼽을 수 있다.
인기와 감동으로 국위선양한 프림퐁 선수.
프림퐁은 스캘레톤 남자 1인승에 출전한 가나의 스켈레톤 첫 선수이자 유일한 선수이다. 이번 경기에서 우리나라의 윤성빈 선수가 금메달을 땄다면, 인기와 감동 그리고 국위선양에서는 프림퐁 선수가 금메달감이다.
비록 윤성빈 선수처럼 성적에 의한 금메달을 획득한 것은 아니었으나, 가나 유일의 스켈레톤 선수로서 아프리카를 대표하여 올림픽에 선 프림퐁의 기적같은 이야기에 외신들은 집중했다. 그리고 온갖 역경을 딛고 종목을 바꿔가며 마침내 올림픽 출전의 꿈을 이룬 그의 스토리에 전세계는 감동했다.
프림퐁은 이번 평창 동계올림픽의 최고의 스타로 떠올랐고, 4차전에 진출하지 못하는 성적이었지만 금메달 대신 흥에 겨워 춤을 추는 ‘흥메달’을 따는 모습을 연출함으로써 세계인의 심금을 울리게 했다.
유년기에 부상으로 주니어 육상 챔피언의 자리를 내려놓고 집집마다 방문하는 진공청소기 외판원으로 일하다가 동계올림픽 봅슬레이 종목에 도전해 또 실패하고 다시 가나의 스켈레톤 대표선수로 전향, 마침내 올림픽 선수의 꿈을 이룬 프림퐁의 감동적인 스토리는 단연 이번 평창 동계올림픽의 꽃이다.
가나대사관에서 본지 기자와 인터뷰 중인 최승업 나나텔 대표.
또한, 그 뒤에는 비용문제로 그가 올림픽 개최지인 한국에 오지 못할 때 선뜻 후원해, 프림퐁의 꿈을 이루게 해 준 자랑스러운 한인 사업가가 있다. 그는 가나에서 가장 성공한 한인 사업가로 통하는 최승업 나나텔 대표이다.
가나 기업도 못한 일을 한국계 기업인이 후원하며 인연이 된 최 대표는 프림퐁 선수의 아름다운 인성에 반해 이제는 프림퐁의 가족이 되었다며 그의 후견인을 자처한다.
이에 <대한뉴스>는 최승업 나나텔 대표와 프림퐁 선수를 취재했다. 가나 현지화를 통해 사업에 성공한 최 대표와 ‘흥메달’로 꿈을 이룬 프림퐁 선수, 그들이 더 넓고 높은 세상을 향해 나아가는 아름다운 동행은 <대한뉴스> 4월호에 자세히 소개된다.
Skeleton Athlete Frimpong from Ghana became the star of
PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games!
Frimpong is not only the first skeleton athlete from Ghana but also the only athlete from Ghana who had competed in Pyeong Chang Winter Olympic Games!
Whole world laughed and cried with some of the best athletes from all over the world from Feb. 9th to 25th.
At least one athlete from a total of 93 different countries had visited PyeongChang. 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang of South Korea was an immediate success that had captured the world’s attention.
Then, who do you think who was the biggest star of PyeonChang Winter Olympic Games?
Some athletes broke the world record. There was a total of 102 gold medalists in diverse field of sports. But above all, many viewers couldn’t forget one pleasant African American athlete from Ghana in the event of Skeleton. His name is Akwasi Frimpong. Frimpong was the first and the only player from Ghana who had come to Korea for Skeleton. He was the hope and future of Ghana and Africa during Winter Olympic Games.
Yes it is true that Korean Iron Man Yun Sung-bin gained massive popularity after winning the gold medal in men’s Skeleton with his absolute dominance in control and speed. But, it was Akwasi Frimpong that attracted more reporters from around the world with his story of passion and endurance. Frimpong’s story was powerful and unique. His journey to being an Olympic athlete from Africa was not easy and complicated.
Frimpong was a talented athlete who didn’t easily give up since he was a child. He trained himself every day until he became a junior champion in 200 meter dash in the national event of Netherland. But, soon, unexpected injury haunted Frimpong and ended his terse career as a sprinter. However, Frimpong did not stop there. After working as a door to door salesman for a vacuum cleaner for many years, Frimpong grabbed his chance to participate into Olympic as the first Bobsled athlete representing his native country of Ghana. But, that dream was also shattered when Frimpong did not meet the tough qualification of being an Olympic athlete in Bobsleigh. Finally, he turned his eyes to Skeleton and despite of his brief years of training and lack of support towards African athlete for Winter Olympic, Frimpong was qualified for skeleton event in 2018 Olympic Games.
Nevertheless, qualifying for a place in Winter Olympic Games did not assure Frimpong’s visit to PyeongChang. Due to the lack of support and fund, financial problem arose at this time. Frimpong and his team did not have enough budget to travel to PyeongChang for the Olympic. But, Frimpong was not alone.
His story went around and finally the prayer was answered. Kojo Choi who is known as one of the most successful Korean entrepreneur in Ghana came across the story of Frimpong. Choi after hearing the story of Frimpong’s struggle did not hesitate second to contact Frimpong. Soon, Frimpong and his team were able to attend Winter Olympic Games without financial worries. In fact, his supporter Choi had also come to Korea together during Olympic days. At first, Choi was not thinking about coming to Korea along with Frimpong to represent Ghana together. But after meeting Frimpong several times, Choi was mesmerized by a humbled and beautiful personality of Frimpong. And soon, Choi was together with Frimpong in PyeongChang to celebrate unforgettable moments of Ghana’s first Skeleton athlete. After this miracle of PyeongChang, Choi did not only become Frimpong’s supporter but also a family member of Frimpong. In this regard, Korea News covers Kojo Choi and Akwasi Frimpong meticulously. Kojo Choi, who succeeded in business through localization in Ghana, and Frimpong, who recently achieved his dream of Olympic athlete will be introduced in the April issue of "Korea News".
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