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Ghana’s swashbuckling 200m sprint champion leaving a legacy

Swashbuckling. This is the adjective that best encapsulates the life of Joseph Paul Amoah, the former national record holder in the 200m sprint.

At 27 years old, his very presence exudes a sense of divine grace. With an athletic build, towering stature, and captivating charisma, he effortlessly commands attention, leaving a lasting impression on all who encounter him.

In the realm of athletics, narratives of unconventional journeys to triumph often captivate audiences, inspiring aspiring athletes worldwide.

Joseph Paul Amoah’s story epitomizes such an odyssey—a Ghanaian sprinter whose path from volleyball to football to basketball ultimately led him to the zenith of track and field.

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY – AUGUST 23: Andre De Grasse of Team Canada and Joseph Paul Amoah of Team Ghana compete in the Men’s 200m Heats during day five of the World Athletics Championships Budapest 2023 at National Athletics Centre on August 23, 2023 in Budapest, Hungary. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Born on January 12, 1997, Joseph Paul Amoah inherited his name from both of his grandfathers, thus bearing two English monikers—Joseph and Paul. Depending on the context of friendship, he may go by JP, Joe Paul, Joseph, or simply Paul.

Despite not being born into Catholicism, he embraced the faith while under the care of his uncle and has remained steadfast in his beliefs ever since.

With a stellar time of 20.49 seconds, Joseph held Ghana’s national record in the 200m for four years, until James Dadzie eclipsed it in April 2023.

Individuals like Joe Paul are born with an innate daring spirit—a predisposition to compete, excel athletically, and explore various disciplines before settling into one. For Amoah, this journey began with football, transitioning to basketball during his time at Prempeh College, and finally, serendipitously finding his calling in athletics.

DISCOVERY OF ATHLETICS

Joseph Paul Amoah enrolled at Prempeh College, a prestigious senior high school in Ghana, during a time when basketball held significant sway.

Given his vibrant personality, it was inevitable that he would venture beyond his familiar terrain. Initially drawn to basketball, his talents were notable, but his true calling was yet to be unearthed.

It was the rigorous encouragement and astute guidance of the Physical Education masters at the school that nudged him towards athletics.

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Despite his initial reluctance, they recognized his untapped potential and redirected his focus from basketball to track and field.

Reflecting on his journey, Amoah recalls, “In my first two years at Prempeh, I wasn’t heavily involved in track and field. It was during an inter-house athletics competition that I was discovered. Despite my affinity for basketball, I gradually shifted my focus to track, and that’s where my journey truly began.”

His mentors, acknowledging his prodigious talent, encouraged him to pursue a career in track and field, foreseeing his ability to compete at the highest echelons of the sport.

For many years, Agoro Nana coached Prempeh College’s basketball team, leading to success on several fronts and taking on teams during Sprite Ball, an intense basketball competition organized for senior high school students in Ghana.

“I will say the main person who got me to track was Agoro Nana before Mr. Fosuhene came into the scene. He was my coach for basketball and athletics and he knew I was better at athletics and so sometimes he would frustrate me by putting me on the bench just so I could focus the track so I give him all the credit for discovering my potential and making me venture into it,” he added.

RISE TO PROMINENCE

Beyond his athletic prowess, Joseph Paul Amoah excelled academically. He furthered his education at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) before transferring to Coppin State University in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, in 2017.

A school he graduated from with degree in Accounting.

At Coppin State, Amoah competed in the Division I of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the pinnacle of intercollegiate athletics in the United States. It was here that his talents flourished, culminating in a historic achievement during the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Championships in May 2019.

Amoah became the first Ghanaian athlete across all sports to secure qualification for the 2020 Summer Olympics, setting a personal best time of 20.20 seconds in the 200 meters—a record-breaking feat not seen since 1995. This remarkable performance also earned him a berth at the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar.

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In June of the same year, during the NCAA Division I Championships, Amoah showcased his remarkable progress by setting new personal bests in both the 100 meters and 200 meters, clocking impressive times of 10.01 seconds and 20.08 seconds, respectively.

His exceptional speed and unwavering dedication were further underscored by breaking the longstanding Ghanaian record in the 200 meters—a record held by three-time Olympian Emmanuel Tuffour for 24 years.

aAmoah’s stellar time of 20.15 seconds not only solidified his status as a rising star in athletics but also secured his place in the 2020 Summer Olympics, where he qualified to compete in the 100 meters, affirming his standing among Ghana’s elite sprinters.

Amoah’s career trajectory continued its upward trajectory, despite narrowly missing out on finals at global events.

His perseverance bore fruit when he clinched bronze in the men’s 200m final at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham—a historic achievement marking the first time in 16 years that an African athlete had secured a medal in the event.

He finished with a time of 20.49s behind Jereem Richards and Zharnel Hughes who won gold and silver respectively.

JOE PAUL AND GHANA’S 4X100M RELAY TEAM

Joseph Paul Amoah’s talents extend beyond individual sprinting prowess. His exceptional speed earned him a coveted spot in Ghana’s 4x100m relay team, which has garnered increasing recognition on the international stage.

Since 2019, Amoah has been a consistent presence in the relay team, with notable achievements such as breaking the African Games record and clinching gold in Rabat, Morocco, with a remarkable time of 38.30 seconds.

Despite facing setbacks, including disqualification at the 2021 World Relays and the 2022 Commonwealth Games, the team’s resilience and determination remain unwavering.

Their triumphs, including a silver medal at the African Games, serve as a testament to their talent and unity.

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“I have been with the team since 2019; it has always been me and Benjamin Azamati. We have this amazing bond and no matter who joins the relay team, we always create that togetherness which has often been the envy of other countries anytime we out for a tournament,” he said about the team.

“After the World Relay and Commonwealth Games, we have been very pained because we were very close and it hurts but we have picked up important lessons which we have been working on. Our talent as a team has never been in doubt and we will only get better,” Joe Paul added.

JOE PAUL IN ACCRA

For many who witnessed the athletics competition during the 13th African Games at the University of Ghana Stadium, one could admire the confidence, ease, and bravado with which the former Coppin State student glided to the finish line.

So graceful was his striding that he had the luxury of jogging during his heat, which he ended up winning with ease.

In the semifinals, he glided past his opponents and even had the time to slow down but still finished head and shoulders above everyone else.

In the men’s 200m final, in front of an expectant crowd, the US-based runner clocked 20.70 seconds to finish ahead of Cameroon’s Emmanuel Bongogne, who placed second with a time of 20.74 seconds. Nigeria’s Consider Ekanem walked away with the bronze after finishing third on the podium.

At 27, in front of his family, friends, and loved ones, Joe Paul showed that he had indeed reached his peak, and if he were able to sprint without injuries, he might just become a constant on the podium for months and years to come.

As his success continues to soar, so does the weight of expectations on him. Becoming a world-class athlete brings its own set of challenges, and Joseph is not immune to these struggles.

These are the challenges he relishes and for ASICS-sponsored runner, he is ready for whatever that may come his way.

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