Featured image taken from Paul Hudson
Few professional athletes are blessed enough to gain national support and sponsorship, allowing them to focus solely on the grueling competition process. Others have to muster up the time and money to train, travel, and compete. Many Liberians find themselves in the latter group. In between full-time jobs, some Liberian athletes have the energy to not only train and compete, but also win. Their victories matched with the minimal support they often receive makes their medals even more impressive.
Take for instance Liberia’s appearance at the 2011 All-Africa Games (the African Olympics) in Mozambique. The country walked away with its first gold international medal, won by decathlete Jangy Addy, and a bronze medal won by 400 meters hurdler Kou Luogon. The medal list doesn’t stop there. In fact, Liberia has stood on the medal podium three times during the African Championships (another big continental match). 100 meters hurdler Sultan Tucker, 400 meters hurdler Raasin McIntosh, and 200 meters sprinter Emmanuel Matadi have all taken home bronze medals for Liberia.
When Liberian athletes are not winning medals for their country, they are winning them for other countries. During the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games, five Liberian boxers competed. Liberia only sent four of those competitors. The fifth boxer, George Scott (previously George Cramne), was a Liberian born Swedish national. Scott ended up winning the 1988 Olympic silver medal in the lightweight division for Sweden.
There’s no denying the correlation between opportunity and medals. Liberian medalist tend to have one thing in common. They are often trained outside of Liberia. Those who choose to represent the country (no matter where they live) often manage and fund the majority of their training, but this phenomenon is not unique to just Liberian athletes.
Olympic athletes seek out local businesses to sponsor their efforts. For example, Ahrza Garcia’s CNN article describes how 2016 team saber Olympic Bronze Medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad gathered funding for her training and competition fees. Still it was barely enough. 2012 Paralympic gold, bronze, and silver medal US cyclist Joe Berenyi shares his experience also. The fact remains, money equals opportunity and opportunity equals medals, in the sports world.
Other Liberian athletes have won international medals and Liberia has a lot more medalist to offer (both in and out of its borders). However, increasing Liberia’s presence on the medal podium requires more than the athletes working hard. Spectators and sponsors have to work just as hard.