One of Ghana’s teenage representatives at the Rio Olympics, Abeiku Gyekye Jackson, will dive into the pool to compete in the blue riband 50m freestyle at 1:10 pm this afternoon (4:10pm Ghana time), hoping to give the nation something to cheer about at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium.
The 16-year-old swimmer is expected to come up against tough customers like Bruno Fratus and 23-year-old Ítalo Manzine Duarte in the men’s splash-and-dash event and though he has little chance of making it, he would dream of improving on his personal best time of 24.9 secs.
The multi-talented youngster has competed in several international swimming tournaments, including the 2015 World Championships in Kazan, Russia, and the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, where he set a new national record in the 100-metre freestyle.
Truth, however, is that Abeku’s best time for the 50m freestyle is nearly four seconds off the current world record held by Brazil’s Cesar Cielo, making it unlikely he will challenge the big guns in Rio. Somehow, Cielo himself failed to make the qualification mark and so would be missing in action.
Just like compatriot Kaya Forson who was eliminated in the 200m women’s freestyle on Monday, Abeiku contested in the world championships last year but could not make the Olympics qualifying time. However, both got their ticket on the universality system, which allows a country’s two fastest swimmers to compete regardless.
The president of the Ghana Swimming Federation (GSF), Theophylus Edzie, himself knows all-too well that the nation was only in Brazil to make a case for the sport and dispel stereotypes, but not to win medals now.
“We are building a formidable team for the future and by 2024, we would have changed the face of swimming in Ghana,” Edzie has been telling the media here.
Impressively, Jackson will become the first Ghanaian male swimmer to compete at the Olympic Games.
From John Vigah, Rio de Janeiro