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Snow Leopard to bring Ghana to Whistler in 2010

Ski racer checks out giant slalom course and other sights



The Snow Leopard of Ghana is a ski racer from a country with no snow.

He is a black African in a sport dominated by fair-skinned athletes from cold countries.

And he wants to put a Ghana/Africa House in Whistler, complete with drums, shields, spears and traditional dancing, alongside winter Olympic powerhouses like Austria, Germany and Switzerland, all of whom will have a national house presence in the resort.

In short, Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong is a man of contradictions, his story one of paradoxes.

But he wants all that to change. And he sees Whistler in February 2010 as a platform to do just that as Ghana's first winter Olympian.

"There's never been a winter Olympics... where anybody has actually experienced anything about an African nation," he said, relaxing on the patio at the Marriott - Residence Inn where he stayed with his wife and two young children while in Whistler.

"Skiing (in 2010) is not just an opportunity for me to jump on the slopes and ski."

This week Nkrumah-Acheampong was given the opportunity to actually see the course he will be skiing in February. He was brought to Whistler by the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC) as part of its Connecting with Canadians program.

He used his time here not only checking out the sights but also preparing for his return in seven months. He was searching out accommodation for his family, transportation, and a possible storefront partner where he could sell his Snow Leopard merchandise.

He also spoke to local restaurateurs to see if there was the possibility of hosting a Ghana/Africa House in Whistler during the Games.

"We've got to show people what we have to offer and I think what other better opportunity than the Olympics to showcase (my country and culture)," he said.

The Snow Leopard had his game face on however when he was standing on Whistler Mountain with local racing legend Steve Podborski.

"You get scared looking at a course like that," admitted Nkrumah-Acheampong.

"But, I think, it's good to have some fear, respect the course.

"It's given me a good idea of how much I have to step it up in terms of training."

One thing that could help him race down the mountain is the fact that his fans will be right beside him.

As the Snow Leopard, Nkrumah-Acheampong competes in a leopard print cat suit. Fans can pay to have their names on each black spot on the suit at a cost of five pounds.

"It's a way of raising funds," said the racer, who doesn't have the deep pockets of a ski federation behind him. "As well, as it's going to be a unique cat suit because you have your fans with you."

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