Joseph Amoah started his track athletics career wondering when it would end.
He was persuaded to carry on, and he’s now the first Ghanaian to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Amoah had grown up, like many boys in West Africa, playing football in the streets and at school.
Back then, he ran just for fun (“my first sport was football”), and dutifully continued running, carrying on the family tradition.
“When I went to high school, first, I didn’t want to run track, but the teachers spoke to me and told me that I had the potential and everything, so I had to run it,” Amoah told Olympic Channel ahead of winning gold with Ghana's 4x100m relay at the 2019 African Games in Rabat.
“My uncle also went to the same high school, he told me it’s a talent that I have, and I should not throw it away. I should just run towards it, and great things are going to happen.”
'Fed up' with athletics
As the years went by Amoah joined Prempeh College, where he was named the 2014 sportsman of the year largely due to his track exploits.
But Amoah still lacked the passion to match his explosive runs and strength.
“When I went to college, I thought I was done with the track." - Joseph Amoah to Olympic Channel
But his coaches had other ideas. They had heard how good the Ghanaian was in high school and wanted him on the sprint team.
“I was kind of fed up. But I said let me just go back and track again and I went back to training.” he added.
Amoah's first love
Amoah was more inclined to play football.
His relationship with the ball began early, like most children in the Greater Accra region, the country’s most populous area.
He grew up watching and admiring some of Ghana’s best footballers who grew up nearby.
There was Asamoah Gyan, Ghana’s all-time leading goal-scorer, Samuel Kuffour (best remembered for his stint with Bayern Munich), former Arsenal duo of Quincy Owusu-Abeyie and Emmanuel Frimpong among others.
“All those people, I grew up watching them, I wanted to be like them. It’s just that I had to take a different route because I realised where my strength was,” he recalled.
Timely career boost
But good things come to those who wait.
Ghana's long wait for the next track star could be finally over.
Joining Coppin State University in 2017, arguably, boosted his athletics career.
“Every hobby in Ghana is tough. Competing in my country was a good thing, but I wanted to come to the U.S. because I knew they have more facilities and it was going to help me get better in my athletics career.”
Three-time Athlete of the Year
The 22-year-old was named Coppin State Athlete of the Year three years in a row.
He bettered his personal records in the 60m, 100m, and 200m.
His 20.20 seconds run at the conference Mid-Eastern Conference Championships in May, made him the fastest Ghanaian over 200m in 24 years.
It’s a run that Amoah will remember for a long time. It was enough for him to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games - the first Ghanaian to do so.
“Going into the race, I didn’t even know how long it had been for someone to run close to that time. I just wanted to go out there and be aggressive off the blocks, execute the race and get some team points. I saw the time I was impressed it was also a PR,” he recalls.
“It has always been my dream to be an Olympian and hearing the news it was a surprise. This has made me feel very happy and I could now try and go for that record.” - Joseph Amoah to Olympic Channel
He is now second behind three-time Olympian Emmanuel Tuffour, who set the Ghana record of 20.15 in 1995.
Up next: African Games, Worlds
His 200m PB, and the 10.09 seconds in the 100m dash, also qualified him for the 2019 IAAF World Championships in Doha, the second time he will be running for Ghana at a major international event after his debut at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
He reached the semi-finals on the Gold Coast, Australia.
Amoah also went to the 2019 African Games in Rabat as one of the favourites for a sprint medal.
“I know it’s going to be great. I am going to go out there and run like anyone out there and beat anyone I can beat and perform to the best.”
His rise to the top is fuelling belief that the golden era for Ghana athletics is on the horizon.
“These generation of sprinters is something special in Ghana,” he reckons.
“We are bringing it back and running the times they used to run back in the days when athletics was at the peak and very top level." - Joseph Amoah to Olympic Channel
"Do better things" than Bolt
The hopes are backed by big desires that rest easy on Amoah’s shoulders.
“My dream is to win an Olympic medal and be a World Champion and break some African records and national records too,” he says of his plans to achieve fame and fortune.
The aspiring chartered accountant is confident in his abilities and what he brings to the track.
“Usain Bolt inspires, he is my icon. I want to go out there and do better things than he did. Everyone knows how great he was to the sport, but I think I have the potential to do more.” - Joseph Amoah to Olympic Channel
“I want to send the name of my country high. I want everyone to be proud. I want to be up there when it comes to people, they mention when it comes to sprinters.”