Glasgow 2014: medals will be hard to come by for Ghana – former USA track and field coach

Janet AmponsahA former USA National Track and Field Team Head coach, Dean Hayes, has said that although Team Ghana has a bright future ahead as demonstrated by recent progress, medals will be hard to come by in the upcoming Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

Ghana’s athletics team won two medals overall in 2010, with the women’s 4x100m relay team winning silver, while the then national long jumper Ignisious Gaisah added a bronze medal to the tally.

Prior to that, the country had averaged about 1.4 medals per competition since in 1974.

Ghanaian athletes have impressed both home and abroad this year.

Willy College student and national javelin champion John Ampomah set a new PB 74.42m and a new national record earlier in the year, while Sprint Queen Janet Amponsah also lowered her PB in the 100m and 200m to 11.36 and 23.05 respectively, and breaking the national 200m indoor record in the process.

The most notable records locally have come in the persons of Vivian Mills, Martha Bissah, Solomon Afful, John O’Brien and Shawkia Iddrisu.

Hayes, a former USA national track and field team head coach, who has had extensive experience training several Ghanaian athletes as far back as 1974, says it will be unrealistic to expect too much from the young athletes.

“If you [Ghana] win a lot of medals in this competition, I probably will be surprised,” he said adding that, “I wouldn’t expect too much because the team is very young. It’s the first time you have had one of these camps.”

“It is a stepping stone and it is the basic level and that is what you want.  They are the athletes for the future. Plus, they will make people to be encouraged about what the programme can do in the future even beyond this group”.

Team Ghana will be up against a quality field of competitors from the Caribbean, European, African and Asian continents during the eleven day competition and Coach Hayes feels the Games will another step forward for the progress of the athletes.

“You have a lot of athletes involved in the Commonwealth Games. It’s like a mini Olympic Games. There will be some very good athletes here. To expect a lot of medals is probably not right at this time”, said Hayes.

The current Athletics team is composed of sprinters Janet Amponsah and Beatrice Gyaman, members of the women’s 4x100m relay team that won a surprise silver medal at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, as well as some sensational talents such as 200m/400m specialist Vivian Mills, 2012 African javelin throw silver medalists John Ampomah and decathlete Atsu Nyamadi.

The country will be competing against 70 other nations in the various disciplines, and Coach Hayes feels it will be a good experience for the athletes.

“Again, it is a just a matter of getting them to see what it is really like, for all of the Federations including badminton, swimming among others. It is just so they can have a feel for it and that is really all you are trying to do.”

“Just like in the United States, we go to meets of this caliber. There are a lot of them who are starting college and some of them are in High School.”

Team Athletics has benefitted from the experience and expertise of Mr. Hayes who volunteered to help the nation’s athletes at their pre games camp base in South Ayrshire, having arrived in the first week of July.

Coach Hayes’s primary role was to supervise the training of the javelin and discus throwers as well as the multi-events. He insisted that Ghana has a bright future in the sport.

“In a year or two when these athletes have had this experience, gone through this competition and camps like this, then they will be better. I think a realistic goal will be to try to see what you can get for Rio 2016.

“Yes, it will be the Olympics, and it will be bigger but at the same time you will get more time to develop”, Hayes remarked.

“In the USA we did it year after year after year.  Then we did it once and we didn’t do it for four more years. That doesn’t work. You’ve got to keep on doing it. The kids have got to see there is a programme there so they will try to get into it. That is the way to do it,” he added.

Hayes has helped several Ghanaian athletes at one point or another. The latter list includes athletes Christian Nsiah, Albert Agyemang, Tanko Braimah, John Dodoo, Andrew Owusu, Eric Nkansah, Francis Dodoo, Boniface Amuzu, Naomi Ansah, Rosina Amenebede and Samuel Adade.