Former Syracuse Orange sprinter Flings Owusu-Agyapong has sacrificed a lot in pursuit of her Olympic dream. In a few weeks, she’ll enter the Olympic Stadium representing Ghana and make those dreams a reality. We had a chance to chat with her about how she’s preparing for the epic event.
How does the selection process work for the Ghana Olympic Team? Is it based upon a single meet, or is it other criteria?
We don't have a lot of athletes at the Olympic level at the moment, so we don't have trials. After I hit the Olympic qualifying mark, I was pretty much in.
You ran the Olympic standard in Miami in April (running a time of 11.26 for the 100m). Was it a relief to hit the qualifying time early in the outdoor season? What does that allow you to do in terms of training to peak in Rio?
I was very relieved to hit the market in Miami. I thought all last year I should have been running the mark but I wasn't able to. Hitting the standard early meant I could focus on just training and not stress about it for the rest of the season. It now allows me to focus on the technical things I need to do better. It basically released me from chasing times all season.
You just set a National Record as part of a 4x100 relay team- when will that team know if it has qualified to run in Rio?
Lol I'm answering this late but we found out on July 13 that we officially made it in. I'm so excited that I'm going to be joined in Rio with these girls. We've all worked extremely hard this year and to see it all come together was just amazing.
After graduating, you decided to stay in Syracuse to train. What led to that decision?
I stayed because I knew Dave Hegland would be able to get me to my Olympic dream. I was hurt a lot during college and I never felt like I reached my potential in terms of what I should have been running. I knew if I could just stay healthy, Dave would coach me to be better than I've ever been before.
You’ve put a lot of things on hold to continue to pursue track and field, can you tell the readers how you stay committed and motivated?
This question is always tough. There are a lot of times when I wonder if this is really what I'm supposed to be doing. When practices and races aren't going well, I start to feel the pressure because as you mentioned I've put everything on hold. Running good times and going to certain competitions help keep me committed and motivated, but I think the motivation comes from knowing that I am truly pursuing my dream. I take the good with the bad (and in this sport there's a lot of bad days) and just buckle down and focus on why I'm doing this in the first place. Another thing that keeps me going are the people I surround myself with, Coach and Frank Rizzo, as well as the people I train with and my family, friends and church, really help to stay focused on my goals.
Does training with the Syracuse team, and other alums, help with this motivation?
I jumped ahead of myself there. Training with the Syracuse team and other alums definitely helps. I know the alums training here and I have a common goal. Training with each other means that I get the push I need when sometimes all I want to do is stay home and sleep. Training with the Syracuse team also helps because I can see the impact I have on the collegiate athletes. I think I push them to want to be better, and they push me to keep setting that example.
Are there times when you’ve wondered if this was all worth the sacrifices? If so, does making the Olympics validate your decision?
There has been a lot of times when I felt like maybe I've wasted my time. Having bad races and bad meets and bad seasons can takes a toll mentally. Making the Olympics definitely helped me to take a breather and feel like this has all been worth it. But honestly I think finding internal motivation no matter what the outcome is and deciding to be happy no matter the circumstances are what keeps me going. The Olympics are the biggest event and what I've been working toward but as an athletes there are always bigger dreams and things we want to achieve. I have to be careful not only to define myself based off my achievements.
Have you thought about what will be going through your mind when you enter the stadium for the Opening Ceremonies?
I haven't quite thought about that, or well I've just been trying to focus on training instead. I know it's going to be an experience that I'll remember forever but I can't really grasp what emotions I'll be feeling. I will probably feel a little overwhelmed and I know I'll be praying and thanking God for brining me this far. I'm looking forward to just enjoying it.
Outside of the competition, what are you most looking forward to in terms of the Olympic Experience?
I'm looking forward to supporting my other teammates as they compete. Aside from athletics, Ghana has athletes in boxing, judo, and swimming so I'm excited to see them compete. I also really want to watch other sports like tennis and basketball. I'm just going to look to enjoy the whole experience.
Three former Syracuse Orange Track and Field standouts will participate in the 2016 Rio Olympics. Last week, we looked at US triathlete Katie Zaferes. She will be joined in Rio by Uhunohma Osazuwa, who will compete for Nigeria in the heptathlon, and sprinter Flings Owusu-Agyapong, who will compete for Ghana in the 100m and 4x100m relay.