In the latest of a long line of sporting firsts for the African nation, Ghana will field a track cyclist at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow this summer. Remarkably, Jedidiah Amoako-Ackah only took up cycling nine months ago.
The 23-year-old previously specialized in boxing and judo, but last September he met Ghana-born Glasgow businessman Sean Dyantyi who was leading a project to have a Ghanaian track cyclist race at the Games.
Amoako-Ackah arrived in the UK in 2001 with his parents whose careers had taken them to Botswana, then England and eventually to Glasgow. He knew nothing about track cycling when he met Dyantyi, who owns garbage removal company Junk Me.
"I didn't have any experience of track cycling so at the time it seemed an almost insane suggestion," Amoako-Ackah told Susan Swarbrick of The Herald.
Nevertheless, he decided to take a year off from university, where he’s studying sports therapy, to learn how to ride and race on a velodrome.
The Ghana Cycling Federation was supportive in theory, but with no experience in track cycling were unable to offer Amoako-Ackah much help.
"While they were glad I was doing it, they had to take a backseat role and weren't able to offer any financial assistance," he said. "Everything has been supported by local Glaswegian businesses."
His sponsors include Junk Me, Juice Warrior, Wheatley Group and Rig Bike Shop and after Amoako-Ackah coached himself for six months 2010 Commonwealth Games silver medallist David Daniell helped him draw up a training plan.
At about that time, Amoako-Ackah realised he was better suited to the sprint disciplines of track racing than the endurance events and switched his focus.
But Glasgow’s Sir Chis Hoy Velodrome is closed in preparation for the Games, so Amoako-Ackah has had to resort to training on the road and doing strength and conditioning sessions in the gym.
"I've been doing my sprint efforts on the road," he said. "You have to work hard and hope for the best."
And equipment is still a problem. "I appreciate all the support I've been given but there is still so much to do," he said. "I'd be grateful for anyone who can help out, especially with a decent set of wheels for my bike."
John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.
He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.
Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc founder Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.
John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.
He joined road.cc in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.