Africa's Finest Preaches His Gospel

( [email protected] ) Dec 03, 2003 07:46 AM EST

Namibia's Frankie Fredericks, considered Africa's bestsprinter ever was in Ghana over the weekend to impart his knowledge to some coaches and athletes. He spoke to The Chronicle afterwards about the future of the sport and his own glittering career.

Ghana played host to a really important guest overt the past weekend. Namibian sprint great Frakie Fredericks was in Ghana at the invitation of triple jumper to help in the nation's efforts at reviving the fortunes of the sport here.

Andrew Owusu was one of Ghana's gold medal winners at the All-Africa Games but he is more than an athlete. An outspoken sportsman, Owusu has studied as far as you would expect few sportsmen to as he nears the end of his doctorate programme.

But it is his insistence that Ghana has done enough talking about solving the woes of athletics that drove him to initiate the programme that brought Fredericks and other athletics coaches from the United States to Ghana.

So for two days between last Friday and Saturday, some selected coaches and athletes from across the country converged at the Accra Stadium to listen to various speakers on all facets of athletics life.

As to be expected, it was Fredericks's presence on Saturday that was the highlight of the programme. For close to three hours, the Namibian who is widely considered the best thing to have happened to African sprinting took the participants through a number of issues.

In a very interactive session he and the participants discussed training methods, attitudes and the selection of athletes and coaches into teams for major competitions like the world athletics championships and the Olympics which is often a subject of intense debate and division every time a major event approaches.

After all the talk with the athlete came the sort of talk Fredericks has become so used to. Over a decade at the top as Africa's finest sprinter has meant that Fredericks has grown so used to granting interviews but unlike many, there was nothing to suggest it has made him arrogant and cocky.

So we sat down at the Labadi Beach Hotel later on Saturday evening to discuss his brief stay in Ghana, the several years at the top of the sport in Africa and inevitably, the never ending saga of athletics called doping and specifically the new designer drug THG.

Fredericks sees his visit to Ghana as part of his larger contribution to the development of athletics in Africa. "The idea of this whole Ghana trip was for someone of my calibre to come and help whoever I can", he says. "I am the chairman of the athletics commission of Africa so when Andrew Owusu asked me to come and say a few words I willingly obliged."

"I guess it went well from the reaction of all those who took part. They asked a lot of questions and I answered them to the best of my ability."

Fredericks is a man passionate about sprinting. He calls the visit to Ghana part of his agenda to spread the gospel of sprinting to the rest of the continent.

"I have been successful after all these years that I have been around, I deem it a duty to pass my knowledge on to others.

My dream is to see an African win the Olympic sprint gold at both the world championships and the Olympics. If I couldn't do, I need to hep in ensuring that others do it."

Fredericks reckons there are a number of athletes who could step into that role onc he quits competition after next year's Olympics. He speaks highly of the Ghanaian trio of Eric Nkansah, Aziz Zakari and Leo Myles-Mills. He knows however that Nigeria have something special in Uchena Emedolu and particularly Deji Aliuo but after his fine display in the world championships in Paris back in August, Fredericks is no doubt that Stephan Buckland could become Africa's best in the 200 meters in the next few years.

There is no doubt that Frankie has been in the last thirteen or so years. Every time, there has been a world class sprinting event, he has represented first his country Namibia and then the continent Africa with distinction.

His advice to up and coming Africans is two-fold: just don't mess up your body, take very good care of it and once you are in a major championships, concentrate everything on winning the honours before the complaints. He is alsoquick to advise against doping.

He hates the phenomenom so much he says those caught to have used the new designer drug THG must be "locked up and the keys thrown away"

No matter how strictly the athletes adhere to the advice it certainly would be some task trying to do the things he has done in his athletics career.

He might have been beaten by Nigeria's Uchena Emedolu at the last All-Africa Games but he still holds the Africa record in the 200 meters thanks to that blistering 19.68 seconds run at the Atlanta Olympics behind Michael Johnson.

That time, the second fastest in the history of the event behind Johnson's 19.32 run is unlikely to be broken on the African stage anytime soon.

With four Olympic silvers, commonwealth gold medals, world champions medals and several others, he certainly would go down as one of the all-time greats.