On the trail of a snow leopard

WILL COLFORD, SnowSeekers Inc.

There’s a well-known joke amongst snowboarders: What’s the difference between a beginner skier and a professional? About a week. 
For Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong, know as the Snow Leopard, however, it took six years of unrivaled dedication, and perseverance to be able to bare his nation’s flag in the Olympics. For the average medal-contending Olympian, skiing is a life long, expensive pursuit. An average Olympian spends 250,000 euros ($355,000C) per season on staff, travel, equipment, and training.
Not to mention the incalculable amount of money, opportunity, and support these athletes receive growing up.
Kwame, on the other hand, had to begin in a nation without snow, start a program without any funding, and achieve some kind of result at the Olympic games.
Beginning at the bottom, Kwame’s first mission was to secure funding. This is a success story in itself as he alone had to make sponsor contacts, and work tirelessly just to acquire necessities like skis. The most impressive funding tactic was the Sponsor a Spot program. 
Anyone can go online and purchase a leopard spot on Kwame’s racing jersey, for five dollars (3.5 euros).
Moreover, one dollar from each spot goes to support one of Kwame’s three charities: a snow leopard conservation program, and two programs helping underprivileged children from both Britain and Ghana learn to ski. 
That appears to be Kwame’s main goal. He’s very clear, however, that he is a sportsman and a competitor. He takes these games and his sport very seriously. After all, Kwame notes that in the beginning, “I was my own coach, my own physio, my own baggage carrier. It was a difficult experience. One I don’t care to repeat.” 
But after the Olympics are over, Kwame, who is now sponsored England’s Base Camp Group, will utilize the media attention he’s received, not for his own benefit, but to foster and build a strong ski program in Ghana. That way young athletes will have the chance to compete at the highest level without having to go through everything Kwame has.       
What’s the difference between a beginner skier and a pro? A lot.

Stay tuned to www.snowseekers.ca/olympicnews for daily blogs, videos and more throughout the Olympics.

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