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Olympics

So long Whistler, next stop Ghana

By Alan Baldwin

WHISTLER (Reuters) - After taking Ghana to the Olympic ski slopes, 'snow leopard' Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong plans to take skiing to the tropical west African country.

"The next thing I want to do is build a ski slope in Ghana, that's what I have to do next," he told Reuters after completing the final men's slalom of the Vancouver Games in 47th and penultimate place. "Just a slope with grass and you use grass skis on it. So it's not impossible, it's just grass skiing," added the British-born 35-year-old.

"You'll hear about us skiing in Ghana soon.

"We've got the site and everything. It's just to get all the equipment, the bulldozers to level out all the rough patches, grow the grass and -- Bingo!, we're there."

Nkrumah-Acheampong said a government official had flown all the way from Ghana on Friday to deliver a personal good luck message from the country's president.

"Maybe after this the next Olympics, or maybe 10 years down (the road), we will see more winter athletes from Ghana."

ADMIRING COMMENTS

The first Ghanaian to compete in a Winter Olympics cut quite a figure on the slopes of Whistler, with his leopard-patterned boots and suits.

Unusually publicity-shy after the first run, begging to be allowed to complete the second before talking to reporters, Nkrumah-Acheampong drew admiring comments from the local spectators.

"Look at his boots, he's so awesome," said one female fan. "Hey, that's the Jamaican," added another well informed admirer.

Nkrumah-Acheampeong, who first hatched his plan to compete at the Olympics after working at an indoor ski slope in the very flat central English town of Milton Keynes, failed to make the grade for Turin four years ago.

He persevered, however, and qualified for Vancouver, bringing his wife and children with him and driving around in a car provided by a sponsor with stickers warning of the presence inside of a snow leopard.

In what would have been a disaster after the years of effort, he nearly skied out in the first run but kept his balance and toughed it out.

With baby daughter Ellice standing timidly next to him at the finish, and his wife watching proudly from a distance, Ghana's number one skier said he had achieved his dreams.

"I'm not last on the list so that's fantastic," he said. "That was one of my main aims, not to be totally crap at skiing.

"I didn't just get down, I got down and I've done what I said I would try and do.

"The job is done, I can go home and relax now," he added. "It's been two tough runs but it's over so I am happy.

"I am going to find some other Ghanaian youngsters to do what I do. I'm finished, no more."

(Editing by Jon Bramley)