Think of me as a pioneer

"The coaches said I had a natural talent," said the latest athlete to qualify for next year's Olympic Winter Games. "I've never found skiing difficult." But that doesn't mean he expects to be on the medal stand at the conclusion of any of his events. No, it'll be satisfying enough if he's able to finish somewhere between the winner of the slalom and giant slalom and whoever comes in last. "These Olympics will be my last chance," he told reporters, "to prove to people that I deserve to be on the hill with the other world-class athletes." To be sure, his career has had its share of challenges. He didn't see his first snowflake until 2005 and didn't ski competitively until he was 30. When it came time to qualify for the 2006 Winter Games, he couldn't because his flight to the trials was grounded due to bad weather. Oh, and then there's all the time away from his wife and two children, one of them still an infant, not to mention the skepticism he has had to endure because of his appearance. Gradually, though, he has earned the respect of his peers. Or, as he put it to the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., "Once you prove that you can come down a tough mountain ... everybody is fine with you." Assuming the necessary sponsorships and travel arrangements fall into place, you should have little difficulty spotting him when his events roll around next February on the slopes at Whistler, British Columbia. Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong won't be the first black man or African to compete in the Winter Games. But he will be the first from Ghana, where on the coldest days the temperature never drops below 60 degrees F. and young men who aspire to be athletes usually turn to soccer.

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