Reuters - Mon, 01 Mar 11:57:00 2010
The 'Snow Leopard' - aka Ghanaian skier Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong - has hung up his goggles after living his Olympic dream in Whistler, but is determined to open a ski centre in his tropical homeland.
The slalom skier was thrilled after finishing 47th out of 102 starters in his discipline at the Winter Olympics, and is focused on using his impressive showing as a launchpad to find a new winter sports star from among his countrymen.
"I'm not last on the list so that's fantastic. That was one of my main aims, not to be totally crap!" laughed the skier, who was born in Glasgow but grew up in the West African nation of Ghana.
"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," added the 35-year-old.
Nkrumah-Acheampeong was born in Scotland while his father was studying for a Masters degree, with the family moving back to Ghana while he was a small child.
He moved to Britain in 2004, but only tried skiing for the first time when a degree in Tourism Management led to a job at the Xscape snow dome in Milton Keynes - and he instantly took to the sport.
Nkrumah-Acheampeong still lives in Milton Keynes with his wife Sena, a secretary at the Open University, though he has used the Italian town of Pampeago as a winter training base since joining the ski circuit in 2005.
But while the Snow Leopard is the first Ghanaian to make the starting line at the Winter Olympics, he is determined not to be the last: he is trying to open a grass skiing centre in Ghana and has already found a suitable site.
"Just a slope with grass and you use grass skis on it. So it's not impossible, it's just grass skiing," he said.
"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's high-profile showing means he might just make it happen. He has attracted international attention for his efforts, and a Ghanaian government official flew in before the weekend's slalom event to personally deliver a message from the president.
"Finally I think somebody in the big places is listening to what we have been saying," he said.
"Maybe after this the next Olympics, or maybe 10 years down (the road), we will see more winter athletes from Ghana."