Ghana's Snow Leopard records Olympic dream song with Canadian fiddler MacIsaac

 

Ghana's Snow Leopard records Olympic dream song with Canadian fiddler MacIsaac

WHISTLER, B.C. — The African skier known as the Snow Leopard can now add musician to his improbable list of accomplishments.

Kwame Nkrumah Acheampong, known for his trademark white leopard-print ski suit and underdog story, has defied the odds by becoming the first person from the snowless African country of Ghana to qualify for the Olympics.

Now he's entered the recording studio with Canadian fiddler Ashley MacIsaac to record a benefit song for his Olympic dream.

Acheampong said Thursday he was coaxed into the recording studio by MacIsaac, who wanted to contribute to the Snow Leopard's Olympic dream - like many Canadians who have donated everything from ski hills, new cars and luxurious accommodations.

The instrumental tune, tentatively entitled "Dreams," is set for release Friday.

Acheampong, 35, said MacIsaac approached him after the Games opening ceremonies in Vancouver, where MacIsaac performed and Acheampong participated as the only athlete from Ghana.

"I don't sing, so, in the first instance we just said, 'No, it's not going to happen," said Acheampong. "It finally turned out they didn't need any voice, so, I just said, 'OK, I don't mind playing one of those small drums, hand drums."'

Acheampong said he is excited about hearing the finished product.

"We went there and it was pretty amazing to hear the gentleman fiddle close up," he said.

Members of Vancouver band Spirit of the West were also involved in the recording.

Acheampong said he's aware of MacIsaac's sometimes rebellious musical approach to traditional Canadian fiddle music, calling some of it "crazy sounding," but he likes what he's heard.

Acheampong, who will compete in the men's slalom and giant slalom next week, said Canadians have helped him realize his dream of competing in the Olympics through their kindness.

He estimated it would have cost him and his team a minimum of $25,000 to come to Whistler, but Canadians have given him a free ride, prompting him to say he feels the country has taken him under its wing.

"It was fantastic to see people reaching deep into their own pockets to support a team when they didn't have any connection in terms of being Canadians supporting Canadian Olympians and trying to support us as well," Acheampong said.

He said prior Canadian Olympic underdog stories like the Jamaican bobsleigh team and British ski jumper Eddie (The Eagle) Edwards from the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary have contributed to his popularity in Canada.

But Acheampong said he wants Canadians to know he is a serious competitor who qualified for the Games. He said his Olympic dream is to encourage others from Ghana to take up skiing and compete in the Olympics.

The Scottish-born Acheampong said he first learned to ski at an indoor ski facility in England, but in six years managed to qualify for the Olympics.

He said he picked up several bad skiing habits in his early years without coaching, but has been making great strides.

Acheampong, who describes his skiing style as copy cat, said he won't win a medal at Whistler, but he won't finish last, either.