When Janet Amponsah clinched a silver medal with a 11.54s clocking in the women’s 100m final at the CAA Senior Championships at Asaba 2018 on Thursday, she achieved two important feats:
first this was her first individual senior medal and
secondly this was Ghana’s first individual track medal since the 2010 CAA Senior Championships where Aziz Zakari won silver in the men’s 100m final.
Significantly, Janet’s individual achievement came at the fifth time of asking having made her debut appearance at the African show piece athletics championships at the 2008 CAA Addis Ababa championships.
Her feat was made all the more remarkable following a report of an injury sustained in the lead up to the final race. Here is what Citi FM’s Fentuo Tahiru reported from Asaba:
“Amponsah was injured by a cameraman in the lead up to her race as she was testing the starting blocks. She was pulled aside asked to pull out of the race for immediate medical attention but she insisted on running before eventually getting treatment for a cut across her chest.”
In winning silver at Asaba, Janet banished the ghost of several close shaves with a place on the podium.
The former Kumasi Girls S.H.S. student had come close to medaling in previous African level competition with 6th and 5th place finishes in the 100m and 200m at the 2012 CAA Championships in Porto Novo, Benin; a 4th place finish in the 200m in a time of 23.49s at the 2015 All African Games in Congo-Brazzaville; and a 5th place finish in a time of 23.45s in the 200m at the 2016 CAA Championships in Durban, South Africa.
But Janet has anchored Ghana’s female relay teams to win some major medals in her career, the most significant being her impressive come-from-behind act to steal a silver medal in the 4x100m final at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi.
She has been a consistent member of Ghana’s female teams that have won silver at the 2012 CAA Championships; bronze at the CAA Championships 2014; silver at the 2015 All African Games; and silver at the CAA Championships in 2016.
After years of going through the pain and anguish, coming so close yet too far away from the podium, this is a moment to savour for the Ghanaian sprint Queen. Alas, her years of persistency and hard work has paid off.
Conversely, Janet had made her intent known going into the championships after recording life time best performances this season with a 11.21(PB) (i.e. 0.7s short of the NR 11.14s) clocking in the 100m in Montverde. Florida on 9th June, 2018, and a new national 200m record of 22.67(NR) in Auburn, USA on 21st April, 2018.
By her own standards, the 11.54s time she clocked in winning silver was a rather slow time but it is very important to point that she had been injured in the lead up to that final. She is a strong spirited individual!
Curiously, she had earlier run 11.63s in the heats and 11.68s in the semi finals to qualify for the 100m final.
Based at the famed Middle Tennessee State University in the USA, Janet and most of our national athletes in the USA have come up short in their individual events during major competitions since 2013 for various reasons.
Of course there have been some exceptional cases like national javelin record holder John Ampomah who threw a national record 82.94m to win silver at 2015 All African Games in Congo-Brazzaville. Ampomah again threw 80.39m at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games to place 19th in the javelin final.
Generally, our foreign based athletes have struggled to replicate their in-season form when competing for their college/university’s, at major championships like the African Championships, IAAF World Championships and the Olympic Games.
There is usually a period of inactivity or lack of competitions after June and this has had a negative effect on the performances of the athletes during these international competitions which usually takes place in July and August.
Janet’s progression from 2008 and to 2018 (below table) tells a story. It becomes very evident that the 200m event is her favourite sprint race owing to her impressive performances over the period.
After dipping below 24s for the first time in her career crossing the finish line in 23.86s in the 200m final at the Maria Tsakos Junior Championships in Tamale in 2012, a lot was expected from her. She ended that season with a splendid personal best 23.41s to take 5th place in the 200m final at the IAAF World Juniors in Barcelona. She held so much promise and many tagged her as the next big thing for Ghana athletics.
However, her form dipped in 2013 as clearly seen with a season’s best 23.95s despite taking up a scholarship at the IAAF High Performance Training Centre in Mauritius.
Her subsequent departure to the USA on a student athlete scholarship reaped dividends with a 23.05s clocking in 2014 and now 22.67s (PB) in 2018.
Many might argue that all things being equal, Janet should have been churning out much better performances at this stage of her career. Some others have even criticized her performances in the past and have asked her to up her game. It’s a tough world out there combining academic work and athletics. But such is the weight of expectation!
While Ghana has achieved some individual laurels in the field events in recent times including Nadia Eke’s gold medal in the triple jump at the 2016 CAA Championships in Durban, John Ampomah’s silver at the 2016 CAA Championships and silver at the 2015 All African Games, there is no denying the fact we have been lacking in the individual sprint events.
It also tells us there is more work to be done for Ghana to return to its glory days in the running events. This is a much broader topic that needs careful research and analysis to come out with some concrete solutions.
But let’s give honour to whom it is due. It is still credit to Janet that she has been able to achieve an individual laurel at the African championships at the 5th attempt despite the chaos associated with the general organisation of this year’s competition.
From a national perspective, her achievement should give us hope about the future prospects of the sport since this is the first time in 8 years that a Ghanaian sprinter has been able to win a medal at the CAA Championships. I think I have a reason to be optimistic ahead of the women’s 200m heats today.
Janet Amponsah’s Season Progression from 2008 to 2018:
PERFORMANCE WIND PLACE DATE
2018 11.21 +1.6 Montverde, FL (USA) 09 JUN 2018
2017 11.32 +0.2 El Paso (USA) 13 MAY 2017
2016 11.65 +1.2 Atlanta, GA (USA) 28 MAY 2016
2015 11.29 -1.3 Canyon (USA) 25 APR 2015
2014 11.36 +1.0 Mesa (USA) 17 MAY 2014
2013 11.70 -0.2 Warri (NGR) 14 JUN 2013
2012 11.51 +0.9 Ouagadougou (BUR)05 MAY 2012
2010 11.94 0.0 New Delhi (IND) 06 OCT 2010
PERFORMANCE WIND PLACE DATE
2018 22.67 +0.9 Auburn (USA) 21 APR 2018
2017 22.90 +0.7 El Paso (USA) 14 MAY 2017
2016 22.99 +0.9 Cape Coast (GHA) 08 JUL 2016
2015 23.04 +1.6 Canyon (USA) 25 APR 2015
2014 23.05 +1.0 Canyon (USA) 12 APR 2014
2013 23.95 +0.4 Bambous (MRI) 18 APR 2013
2012 23.41 +0.2 Barcelona (ESP) 13 JUL 2012
2011 24.84 -1.7 Maputo (MOZ) 14 SEP 2011
2010 24.27 0.0 Abuja (NGR) 09 SEP 2010
2008 24.48 +0.7 Pune (IND) 16 OCT 2008