Ghana: Weightlifting Raising the Nation's Flag

18 September 2019

WEIGHTLIFTING has the potential of weighing home the biggest haul of medals at major international events than any other sport discipline.

Ghana has a total medal haul of four at the Olympics since it first participated in the 1952 Helsinki Games. Sadly, only two sport disciplines (boxing and football) have raised the nation's flag at the quadrennial games.

Welterweight boxer Clement Quartey was the first to give Ghana its first medal (silver) at the Olympics (Rome '60). Four years later in Japan (Tokyo '64), light welterweight Eddie Blay dazzled his way to bronze - a feat that was to be equalled by middleweight Prince Amartey at the Munich '72 Games.

Indeed, Ghana has to endure an excruciating 20 years wait before its football representatives, Black Meteors, grabbed Africa's first football medal (bronze) in Spain (Barcelona '92). No more sport discipline has been able to deliver the goods at this echelon.

It is a disconcerting record which president of the Ghana Weightlifting Federation (GWF), Ben Nunoo-Mensah, appears supremely eager to overturn. He swears he will, but says it would be done methodically.

The weightlifting capo believes first in the construction of the requisite infrastructure, "since I don't want to be barking up the wrong tree."

Indeed, after assuming office in 2012, Nunoo-Mensah's weightlifting put together a Four-Year Development Plan which was projected to culminate in producing Commonwealth, African Youth and Junior champions by 2016. The target, heartily, may have been far exceeded.

First, the Federation worked in tremendous fashion to vacate its open-air training area at the Kaneshie Sports Complex in 2011 to its own ultra-modern and well-equipped Gym and Training Centre at the Accra Sports Stadium.

"In 2013, our target was to create an attractive brand out of weightlifting - a brand that can encourage corporate association and sponsorship," Mr Nunoo-Mensah recalled.

So from a near 'shaggy-dog' story, weightlifting began to attract lots of media attention as the discipline started taking part in every continental championship - even without financial backing from the sector ministry.

This resulted in the national team, the Black Cranes, swaggering home 19 medals at the November 2013 African Weightlifting Championships in Morocco. This is Ghana's highest medal haul by any one discipline at a single competition (aside from the Charles Osei Asibey-led arm wrestling). Snow-ball effect!

Ruth Baffoe of the Ghana Immigration Service rolled off the medal swoop by winning six bronze medals on the opening day of the competition, while Juliana Arkoh continued Ghana's impressive showing by sweeping six silver medals and two bronze medals the next day in the 63-kilogramme category.

Dora Afi Abotsi, the captain of the women's team, added two bronze medals, while Theophilus Tackie completed the haul with three bronze medals.

As a mark of good sportsmanship, the Black Cranes were adjudged the most disciplined side at the Championship.

In 2014, the GWF put in place both physical and administrative/technical structures - as it erected its own gym and training centre at a cost of $120,000 - aside from the training of 27 weightlifting coaches.

The Deputy Secretary General of the Federation, Ken Odeng Adade, was later to attend a Sports Management Course in Weightlifting organised by the Weightlifting Federation of Africa (WFA) to upgrade his knowledge in his administrative duties.

Clearly, the association was famished for excellence and perhaps hugely determined to become one of the finest professional weightlifting outfits in Africa.

"We also opened a well-furnished administrative office at the Accra Sports Stadium and formed seven sub-committees to help the executive board in the discharge of its duties," adds Mr Nunoo-Mensah.

For the association's consistency and hard work, it won three prizes at the 2014 SWAG Awards, having earlier garnered home six medals (silver) from the African Youth Games in Botswana. A year later, it again won three bronze medals at the All Africa Games in Congo Brazzaville.

In the same year (2015), the GWF embarked on various talent identification drive and the formation of various weightlifting clubs in the Greater Accra Region. These clubs are now the key stakeholders in weightlifting in the country. Out of these clubs have emerged the current African and Commonwealth medalists like David Akwei, Gabriel Owusu, Jeremiah Teng, Gbul Benye, Richmond Osafo, Christian Amoah, Winnifred Ntumi, Faustina Allotey and Abraham Adjei, amongst others.

In 2016, the GWF took part in the Rio Olympic qualifier in Cameroon and won three bronze medals - duly qualifying Ghana for the Rio 2016 Olympics. That same year, the association participated in the Commonwealth championship in Malaysia, annexing four medals (two gold medals, one silver and one bronze).

It was, therefore, no wonder when weightlifting won a total of five awards at the 2016 SWAG Awards. The awards included the Sports Federation of the Year and the Federation President of the Year. The president of the Federation was also voted by the sports fans of Ghana as the Sports Personality of the Year during the 2016 Happy FM Sports Fans Award.

The spectacular trend continued in 2017 which saw the GWF clinching two medals at the Commonwealth Championship in Gold Coast, Australia which qualified the nation to the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in Australia.

In that glittering year too, Ghana again clinched six medals (one gold, four silver and one bronze) at the African Youth and Junior championships in Uganda.

The Federation also competed in the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) World Championships in the USA which was a high level performance for our athletes.

In the early parts of 2018, the national weightlifting team competed in the Africa Youth and Junior Championships in Cairo, Egypt, and excelled by winning 11 medals.

This qualified the team to the Youth Olympic Games to be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The team also participated in the Commonwealth Games and improved their personal best which caught the attention of the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) President, Dr Tamas Ajan.

On that occasion, Christian Amoah finished fifth in the 85kg category, while Richmond Osarfo placed fourth in the 105kg with Forrester Osei picking the sixth spot in the 94kg.

The Ghanaians are currently looking forward to competing at the Africa Weightlifting Championship in Mauritius, hoping to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Japan.

Among some of its recent magnificent feats this year, Winifred picked bronze, while Christian Amoah grabbed two silver in April at the African Senior Championship in Egypt.

In March 2019, Forrester Osei sparkled to clinch three gold medals at the African Seniors Weightlifting Championship in Libya. The championship, which is a 2020 Olympic qualifier, puts Ghana a step closer to qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Games.

Then only last month, weightlifting again stole the spotlight when it harvested eight of Ghana's 13 medals at the Morocco African Games after young female lifter, Winnifred Ntumi, roared off with three bronze medals to inspire David Kwei to pick another bronze. Christian Amoah got three more bronze medals with Forrester Osei rounding off with silver.

As if this was not enough, only early last week, Amoah again displayed some delectable piece of muscle to win three gold medals at the African Junior Weightlifting Championship in Uganda.

The GWF's current sponsorship with Multi Pro Ghana Limited, producers of Indomie noodles - which is in its second year, has helped the Federation to discover, identify, train and develop 15 young boys and girls below the ages of 16.

"These are promising talents who on any given day can take on Africa and the Commonwealth and come up tops in any Youth and Junior Championship," asserts the GWF boss.

"We hope to continue with this talent hunt and development, and create a sustainable growth of the game in our country. We currently have over 40 young boys and girls below age 13 who train at our Training Centre every Saturday - and on daily basis when school vacates."

It is limpidly clear that the GWF is on the ball and it is relentlessly cutting the mustard. Predictably, more medals look good to decant in the coming years. However, the biggest moment will be striking a medal at the Tokyo Olympics.

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