Skeleton's Akwasi Frimpong: Every time I wear my Black Panther suit, it's for Chadwick Boseman

Africa's only male skeleton representative at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics tells Olympic Channel how the actor inspired him to success, and how he plans to honour his memory on the ice.

By Andrew Binner

For Ghana’s first skeleton athlete Akwasi Frimpong. actor Chadwick Boseman personified black excellence

After seeing the American's epic portrayal of King T’Challa in the Black Panther movie, Frimpong was inspired to create a Black Panther-themed sliding suit for the 2018 season.

“Chadwick meant a lot to me,” Frimpong told Olympic Channel.

“He instilled that belief in African people that whatever they want to achieve, a doctor or a lawyer, an actor, a businessman, that you can accomplish that.”

“He made somebody like me continue to push forward in my skeleton career, with all the different struggles that I have in life like injuries, not always having the resources that I need to compete, whatever. I have no excuse then to give my all, just like Chadwick Boseman did as a Black Panther, and as an individual.”

"Never take your dream to the grave"

Boseman died in August 2020 aged 43, following a four-year battle with colon cancer.

His passing was met with an outpouring of tributes from around the world, including fans, fellow actors, and even former US President Barack Obama - all of whom had their lives touched in some way by the actor’s life.

“The legacy he left behind was beautiful: never take your dream to the grave,” Frimpong continued.

“Work and give everything that you have right now. Even though it was devastating news, at the same time the positive impact he had on every one of us is a really beautiful thing.

“Every time I wear that suit, it's definitely for Chadwick, but also for the continent of Africa and for all underdogs who are inspired to achieve greatness.”

Akwasi Frimpong's skeleton suit was inspired by Ghana and the Black Panther movie character.

Frimpong was born and raised in Ghana, before moving to the Netherlands with his family.

Initially a talented sprinter, he gained an athletics scholarship to Utah Valley University in the United States.

He eventually switched sports to bobsleigh, before settling on skeleton, where he was Africa’s sole male representative in the sport at the PyeongChang 2018 winter Olympics.

“When the Black Panther movie first came out, a lot of African people started tweeting that, “We have our own King T’Challa and as we have our own Black Panther on ice,” the 34-year-old continued.

“Representation was very important to these people and I realised how happy they were that there was somebody from Africa competing.

“That's why I chose Black Panther for my race suit."

"Chadwick represented the athlete’s mindset perfectly both in life and in the movie. He had determination, a never-give-up attitude, no excuses, no selfishness, he inspired people." - Akwasi Frimpong speaking to Olympic Channel on Chadwick Boseman

“I wanted to represent Africa and the richness of black culture and black excellence in the same way he did."

In February this year, Frimpong won his first race at the USA Western Regionals.

He competed in the category for non-USA athletes, and his victory in the Black Panther suit was achieved in rather unusual circumstances.

“Twenty four hours before the race, I opened up my sled after a long time, and it kept collapsing from the inside.

“I realised that the pin, which holds the sled together in the middle was broken. The pins are high quality and usually don’t break.

“I went to get it fixed and didn't go to bed till 2:00 a.m. the night before the race. But I decided to use the mindset of, ‘Don't worry about it. Just do the best that you can. No excuses.’"

Zach Lund (left, Frimpong's coach) and Akwasi Frimpong after winning the USA Western Regionals in February 2020.

In the true spirit of Olympic sport, the Ghanaian slider was able to rely on the help of one of his fellow competitors to get him through the race.

Luxembourg skeleton athlete Jeff Bauer, who also works as an aircraft engineer, was able to help patch up Frimpong’s sled using his technical expertise.

That help, coupled with the ability to remain calm in a stressful situation, helped him to take the win despite sliding on a rather wobbly sled!