The 19-year-old balances a life of training and working in a barbershop in the hopes of making his siblings and country proud.
Five African athletes train, doing upward kicks, on an indoor track.
Amos Ahiagah is training five days a week to become the first Paralympic medallist from Ghana.
Amos Ahiagah is known in his neighbourhood as a barber. But he dreams of being known as something more: a world-class sprinter and Paralympic champion.
The 19-year-old can be seen running at a stadium in Accra, Ghana in the early mornings before he collects his things and goes to work at a barbershop. The money he earns helps to support his family, including his brother’s dream of becoming a professional football player.
Ahiagah also has a big dream of his own – to win the first Paralympic medal for Ghana – and he is overcoming every challenge to achieve this.
“In my country, when you go to training, someone will see you and the person will discourage you,” Ahiagah said. “Even in the training you’re doing in Ghana, they just discourage you, but for me, no one can discourage me. I know what is in me so I will never stop.”
The first laps
An accident at the age of six led to the amputation of Ahiagah’s right arm below the shoulder. He adapted to the new reality quickly and started running alongside other students while at school.
A selfie of a coach and three athletes on a track, including one young boy.
Now 19 years old, Ahiagah started running as a child in school.
“I ran with the able people during school time. As I went running, a coach saw me and said to me that he’d like to take me in and train me,” Ahiagah said.
“In my country you don’t have so many disabled athletes so normally I train with the abled people. I always run with them. I do everything with them,” he added.
“During my school time, I always ran with the abled people, so I’m not afraid of them and that is why the coach saw something in me. He knew that one day I will go somewhere. It’s just a matter of time and you just need someone to assist you.
After the coach spotted him, Ahiagah started training with more focus. He now specialises in the 100m, 200m and 400m distances.
Power and speed are what he likes the most about sprints – especially when his improved physical strength helps him to pass his friends on the track.
A male athlete without a right arm below the shoulder stands in the starting blocks on an indoor track.
Ahiagah trains every day of the week and competes on the weekends.
“I really enjoy running because I like challenges. I like to challenge my friends who are able people. I want to show them that whatever they can do, I can also do it, and better,” Ahiagah said, adding that people often tell him that he cannot do something, which makes him determined to prove them wrong.
As he picked up new skills on the track, Ahiagah also got more interested in the Paralympic Movement and the opportunities it could offer him. Since information about the Paralympics is not easy to get in Ghana, he relied on Internet sources to find out more about the history and values of the Games.
“I sometimes learn from online. I Google and learn what ‘Paralympic’ is,” Ahiagah said. “Many people don’t know about Paralympics in my country. When you say ‘Paralympics’, some people do not understand what Paralympics means because they don’t have any idea about it, so I try to teach my friends about the Paralympics.”
A female coach demonstrates the muscles at work in the shoulder using a male athlete as a model.
Since discovering Para athletics, Ahiagah has been eager to learn as much as he can about his sport and the Paralympic Movement.
Thanks to his online research, Ahiagah can easily name the year and location of the first Paralympic Games along with other details about the Movement.
And now he also wants to be a part of that history himself.
“My dream is to win a gold medal for my country because I noticed that no one has won the gold medal for the country before, so I just want to be the one,” Ahiagah said. “If I did that, I would be proud.”
A brother’s dream
Trying to become the first Paralympic champion from Ghana is a great undertaking in itself, but Ahiagah has yet another goal he is trying to achieve – to help his younger brother become a professional footballer.
Ahiagah’s brother is 15 years old, while his sister is 27 years old. Since their parents are mostly absent from their lives, the three siblings live together and rely on each other for support.
A coach stands on an athletics track, flanked on both sides by male athletes who are missing parts of their right arms.
Ahiagah has raced at several regional competitions and national sports festivals.