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‘Last 150 metres did the trick’

BY: Kweku Zurek

Golden Girl Martha Bissah has described as most difficult the last 150 metres of the 800 metres race that won her the ultimate prize at the Youth Olympics in Nanjing, China.

In the company of the Ghana contingent who arrived at the Kotoko Airport last Saturday to a rapturous reception, Martha said she drew on her reserves of energy to sprint past the leading pack and eventually pull away from the chasing bunch from the final 150-metre mark, much to the surprise of the crowd.

“They were surprised at my victory because Ghana is known for producing short distance runners and not middle or long distance runners. But I bet you, the last 150 metres was the most difficult”, she told the Graphic Sports with a beaming smile.

A 17-year-old former Aduman Senior High School student, cut a big slice of sporting history in a time of 2:04.90 minutes to beat the much fancied Hawi Alemu Negeri of Ethiopia and Germany’s Mareen Kalis to second and third place respectively and in the process set a new national record in the two-lap race.

Martha’s historic feat was the nation’s maiden Olympic gold medal at any level and it makes her a prospective candidate for a scholarship to join 15 other Ghanaian athletes already studying in American colleges.

She was grateful to her coach Isaac Nii Odartey Lamptey, a corporal of the Ghana Police Service, and Ghana Olympic Committee (GOC) president, Professor Francis Dodoo, for their invaluable counsel which led to her achievement.

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“I am grateful to my coach and guardian, Isaac Lamptey, for all the support he has given me, especially when I was about to write my final exams. Prof Dodoo’s advice about sticking to my lane in the early stages of races was also very crucial,” she said.

The Olympic gold medalist also issued a passionate plea to the government to give more support to athletics.

Later in an interview, an ecstatic Prof Dodoo attributed Martha’s performance to experience that she gained from participating in various competitions, adding that her achievement in Nanjing was a stepping stone to better things.

“What Martha did in China was unbelievable. She ran a mature race and that came from the number of events she had run in before then.

“She went to the African Championships in Morocco where she lost to Ethiopia’s Negeri finishing in third place and before that, she was in Glasgow for the Commonwealth Games. Those events helped her development and she has made the nation very proud,” Prof Dodoo said.

Martha, who received half of her per diem allowance in China, is expecting to be rewarded with $5,000 from the government in recognition of her historic feat.