Academic goal achieved, Abigail Kwarteng turns focus on Paris Olympics
United States (US)-based Ghanaian athlete, Abigail Kwarteng, has set her eyes on participating in next year’s Olympic Games in Paris and says she is working hard to fulfil her next sporting goal after completing her academic pursuit at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU).
Last week, Kwarteng capped off her experience at the university by earning a Master’s degree in Public Health and said her next goal was to compete for Ghana in the high jump event at the 2024 Summer Olympics.
For the long jump women’s national record holder, participating in the Olympics is every athlete’s dream and has, therefore, channelled her energies into qualifying for the biggest global sporting event. “Honestly, as an athlete, the Olympics is almost everybody’s dream,” said Kwarteng after graduating on May 6. “However, I wouldn’t say I realised it was my Olympic dream until my time at MTSU,” she told MTSU News.
The 26-year-old Kwarteng arrived at the university with an impressive track record and a great deal of experience, having competed in American collegiate athletics for the University of Alabama, as well as some national and international high jump championships. Under her coach Andrew Owusu, a public health professor at MTSU and three-time Olympian for Ghana, Kwarteng continued her impressive performances, ending 2022 as the second-ranked high jumper in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I and the 26th-ranked high jumper in the world.
“My coach made me realise I had a lot of potential, and I could go way farther than college competition,” she said, “He asked, ‘What are we doing here? and said “Let’s keep going as far as we can go”. I decided I will not end my athletic career until I’ve made it to the Olympics,” she said.
Operation Paris 2024
With no immediate academic obligation, Kwarteng is training at least two hours a day to get in top shape to fulfil her Paris 2024 goal, having previously represented Ghana at the 2016 African Championship in Durban, the 2018 African Championship in Asaba, the 2019 African Games in Rabat, 2022 World Athletics Championship in Oregon and the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
“There are running activities like pulling sledges,” she said. “I run the Floyd Stadium stairs, I jump twice a week and we also work on the more technical aspects of jumping…. I’ve always given my best performances under his coaching,” she said of her development under her experienced Ghanaian coach who recognised her immense potential during a competition in Ghana in 2016.
Prof. Owusu played a role in Kwarteng’s transfer from the University of Alabama to MTSU after her performance dropped. He believes the new environment and support system at the university proved appropriate to ensure a turnaround in her athletics and academic exploits.
“I think the MTSU environment was ideal for Abigail. She had professors, coaches, individuals in the athletic department and a community of friends who were personally invested in helping her find her feet.
“The quality of the MTSU environment via the provision of a supportive and nurturing environment for student-athletes is one reason why Abigail has gone on to realise much of the potential I saw in her as a junior, both on and off the field,” Prof. Owusu said about the athlete.
In April last year, Kwarteng obliterated the women’s high jump national record by five centimetres when she jumped to a new personal best height of 1.92m as she won the War Eagle Invitational in Auburn, Alabama.
For the native of Bekwai in the Ashanti Region, completion of her graduate programme means the world to her.
“I’m doing this for my family,” she said, adding: “My parents are farmers. They live thousands of miles away in Ghana. They never had the opportunity to go to school. My father even got a scholarship to attend high school for free, but his family couldn’t afford the transportation…. To be able to walk for my Master’s, it’s almost surreal.”
Now, with a degree in hand, Kwarteng plans to continue training hard under Prof. Owusu to hit another athletic milestone and fulfil her Olympic dream, as well as pursue her career in public health.