The elusive gold medal is finally in Canadian wrestler Ohenewa Akuffo’s grasp.
The silver medalist at last month’s world championships in Moscow and the last two Pan American Games is a golden girl after outlasting Cameroonian Annabel Ali in a fourth-session tiebreaker in the 72kg (158lbs) division at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India last week.
After holding her rival at arms length in the opening minute, Akuffo overthrew her to take the opening session 3-0 in the top division of women’s wrestling at the Games. Pinned in the second session, the Canadian regained her composure and the initiative in the third stanza that ended in a 0-0 stalemate.
The freestyle wrestler clinched victory by a point in the final session, strong-arming Ali out of the fighting area.
“I was not letting the gold go,” said a tired Akuffo after the bout. “I couldn’t let my fans down…As the expectations were high in Canada, I couldn’t mess with it. I practiced for that and the result is gold.”
The 2008 world championship bronze medalist advanced to the final by brushing aside Australian Cassie Fields and Nigerian Hellen Okus 4-0. Okus and the other Nigerian wrestlers are coached by Daniel Igali who is Canada’s first men’s world wrestling champion.
“She’s a pretty strong girl,” Fields said after being pinned in 49 seconds.
Akuffo, who is ranked third in the world in her division, is a beneficiary of Ontario’s Quest for Gold program that provides direct financial assistance to amateur athletes.
“Her victory is a boost to Team Canada, women’s wrestling and to all of us at home in Ontario who watched with great anticipation as our athletes once again took to the international sports stage,” said the province’s Health Promotion & Sports Minister, Margarett Best.
Overall, Canada won three gold, two silver and a bronze medal in women’s wrestling which made its debut at the Games.
Born in North York to Ghanaian parents, Akuffo won her first senior national championship at age 17 in 1997 and was selected to represent Canada in the 75kg division at the world championships that year, becoming the youngest national women’s team competitor. She won a gold medal at the first ever World University Games in Izmir, Turkey in 2005 and was inducted into Brampton’s Sports Hall of Fame last year.
Akuffo is a member of RBC Olympic program that hires Canadian Olympic and Paralympic athletes as community ambassadors to spread messages of excellence and leadership in Canadian communities. She is also an athlete ambassador for KidSport Ontario.
In addition to wrestling and her community work, Akuffo is a part-time student at York University pursuing an honours degree in Marketing and a Sports Administration & Management certificate.