The Ghanaian team of four athletes arrived in Great Britain on 25 June. With their training ground now just a 10-minute drive away, it is a very different world to what wheelchair racer Raphael Botsyo is used to.
“Back in Ghana we have some difficulties in terms of getting access to the track. The track is almost three hours’ drive from us,” said Botsyo.
Botsyo has the support of Right to Dream, a charity based in Ghana, providing a professional sports, education and leadership academy to under privileged young talent in Africa, and Sports Science experts from the University of Exeter, who are training them.
“Getting access to the equipment, facility, competitions and trainers means everything is going well,” he said.
“Being away from Ghana our focus is solely on the competition.”
Arriving early for additional training will give Botsyo and his teammates a boost.
Botsyo competed as the first and only male Ghanaian athlete at the Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, for which he was invited on a wild card.
“The difference is, I couldn’t get enough preparation and I couldn’t get the support that I’m having now. I flew out to the Games just one week before the competition.”
About a year ago Right to Dream decided to support four Ghanaian athletes. The training Botsyo received has allowed him to qualify in competition.
“Now I have the qualification based on myself. There’s been much improvement and it’s much different.
“I feel so excited. I got my qualification in the last moment when Right to Dream sent us to the Swiss Nationals and I qualified in the 100m T54.”
“I was so excited when I was able to make the qualifying standard. That’s what I was looking forward to because I said to myself, ‘I’m not going to depend on a Wild Card this year to be in London. I want to qualify.’ That way you can get respect and your fellow athletes see you on the ranking list. I’m 10th in the world so any athletes who are coming to compete with me are going to have a lot of respect and feel a bit challenged.”
Botsyo also believes in giving back to the community and changing peoples’ perceptions in Ghana, which are really key parts of the Right to Dream project.
“I want to use sport as a tool to change perceptions about people with a disability because in Africa and especially Ghana people have a different mind-set about persons with a disability. People think they are not important and that being a disabled person you can’t do anything to help yourself, your country or the continent.”
Botsyo’s commitment to changing perceptions will kick off once the Games are over.
“Everybody in this world has some hidden talents, and without support those talents will never come out. So we need to change our minds about people with a disability and give them an equal platform, and they will be able to do things that the so-called able-bodied are doing.”
Other members of the Ghanaian team include Alem Mumuni, Anita Fordjour and Charles Narh Teye.