Can you believe it, we've already surpassed the campaign goal... and with time to spare!!!
I cannot thank you enough: to my family, friends, fans, and supporters, I am overwhelmed with your generosity, love and comments from New York to Switzerland to Ghana! With your help, I believe in this dream now more than ever. Amen. Amen. Amen.
If you have not yet had the opportunity to support my campaign, you can still support! With any additional support beyond my campaign target, I'll be able to afford to...
1) Pay my coach!
2) Live on the West coast for longer than the initial 3 months
3) Increase my nutrition budget (better quality food, ahhh, heaven...)
4) Include bi-weekly rather than monthly recovery services like yoga and massage
I compete in the long jump. Scratch that. The long FLIGHT. I've been running and jumping since age 11 and have learned that language ("flight" vs. "jump") changes everything! So when people ask me what I do, I no longer say "I'm a sports medicine doctor but... I'm also an athlete." I now say, "I'm an athlete! And I'm using my journey to model excellence for young people who need role models most!"
I first recognized my potential to excel as an athlete while positively impacting those around me at Yale College. During a big meet junior year, I broke the meet record on my last jump, leaping 6.17 meters (20’ 3”), sending my coach and family into a tizzy and clinching the win. I thought that was the best I could do. But after Yale, I couldn’t kick the thought: “maybe it wasn’t...” And so I trained... Through medical school, public health school, residency and fellowship, I trained smart (not just ‘hard’), grew physically and mentally strong, teamed up with coaches who knew more than I knew and sought peer mentorship from professional athletes who dreamed bigger than I ever dared to dream.
My performances improved, the way I saw myself changed, my dreams got bigger, and years later, I leapt 6.35 meters (20’ 10”) to qualify for Ghana’s National track & field team – the ONLY female long jumper on the squad!!! So: 2 years after becoming a doctor and 1 year before the 2012 Olympics, I set a person best in the event I love! My plan was to represent Ghana at the London Games but 1 month into my competitive season, I suffered a traumatic femur bruise that (tragically) left me unable to use my jumping leg. But I didn't stop!!! I learned to jump off my left leg and within 2 months, I leapt 6.06 meters. Though it wasn’t enough for London, I took third at the U.S.A. Outdoor Club National Championships. I fought tooth and nail and surprised myself by earning a bronze medal.
Despite working full time, I've reached an international level of competition and continue to improve every season.
At this point, I know something pretty exciting:
The best I can do hasn’t happened yet ☺
Why take a year and a half off to train full time? Two reasons: TIMING and IMPACT.
Reason # 1: TIMING
The 'aha' moment came for me and my coach when at the 2015 U.S. National Indoor Championships, my personal best (6.35 meters) WON the meet; only I didn’t jump it! If, in 2015, I am “in striking range” of the best United States’ jumpers when I work full time and they train full time, who’s to say I can’t equal and/or surpass their marks when I level the playing field by training full time?
How have my performances improved over time (2011 - 2015)?
- 1st place, Ed Waters Reunion (6.35 meters)
- 3rd place, Ghana Grand Prix (6.29 meters)
- 5th place, All-Africa Games (6.29 meters)
- 8th place, Princeton Invitational (8.00s, 60 meter dash for training)
I've had season over season improvement in jump performances (primarily in take-off coordination and speed) since 2012. Along this journey, why not use my story to inspire youth – especially girls and minority youth who "look like me," to go for their goals in the classroom and on the track? That leads me to the "impact" factor.
Reason # 2: IMPACT
The hats I wear (“woman,” “West African,” “African-American,” “scholar-athlete”) put me into a category of people where it is relatively uncommon to find role models who are successful scholars AND athletes. This offers a great opportunity to lead by example through community service, speaking, and mentoring -- things I love to do.
So. Given my history of season over season improvement in speed and takeoff rhythm (critical), the world-class coach and training group I’ve got in Los Angeles, my expertise in sports performance, rest and nutrition, and my resolute will and desire (something I bring to every endeavor), if I train and compete full time, I believe I will achieve my athletic goals (see below!). In so doing, I'd have the opportunity to be one of the only female horizontal jumpers representing Ghana on international stages (a big deal for girls and women in the country who want to pursue sports!). I could also use my athletic platform to speak to girls and kids who "look like me" along their own paths of excellence -- on AND off the track.
I am raising money to move to Los Angeles and train full-time from May 2015 - September 2016. My coach is a native of the Bahamas and has trained some of the world's best horizontal and vertical jumpers (he was also invited multiple times by countries like Japan to be the national jumps coach). This campaign will raise the first 1/3rd of my total budget for outdoor season. Earning a place on my national Olympic team representing the Federal Republic of Ghana in Rio is my ultimate goal -- but along the way, my coach and I have set benchmarks in three areas:
#1 Sports Performance
#2 Community Service
#3 Personal Growth
Success will be marked by benchmarks during the journey, not just at the final destination.
2015-16 Benchmarks (Goals)
(time period needed to achieve goal*)
Break Ghanaian national women’s long jump records
- Indoor record, 6.34 meters (3 months)
- Outdoor record, 6.70 meters (9 months)
Qualify for IAAF World Series (2-6 months) (including but not limited to)
- All Africa Games, Brazzaville, Brazzaville, Congo, 9/2015
Qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (10-12 months)
My coach and have identified 2-3 specific motor learning tasks I will have to learn and then execute (in practice and also under the pressure of competition) in order to reach each goal -- and each one is achievable.
- Once quarterly, contribute a writing sample to an online mental health campaign (sports is a powerful tool to improve mental wellness and holistic health)
- Once quarterly, participate as a speaker or contributor to a community event focused on mental health awareness in minority, under-served communities
- Once quarterly, participate as a speaker or contributor to a community event focused on girls' academic achievement in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math
- Once quarterly, promote healthy eating and exercise as a tool to improve health at local community centers through speaking or teaching classes (e.g. YMCA, etc.)
- Once weekly, blog about my journey and life lessons learned through sport on www.theartofflight.com, which has had over 1,300 viewers since January 2015! Feel free to check it out!
My givebacks reflect ALL of who I am, including African, female, super-duper-crafty, community-oriented and a complete lover of kids.
All contributors will receive an immediate shout-out on social media, plus...
≥ $25 - Shout out on social media (a huge, virtual hug, kiss and "Thank You!")
≥ $50 - Hand-made post-card decorated with traditional West African fabric
≥ $100 - Hand-made key chain made from traditional West African fabric
≥ $250 - Post card, and a framed quote (one of the many that inspire ME!)
≥ $500 - Post card, and EITHER a coffee-table book of professional fitness photos and quotes OR a hand-made wooden bench with gold and West African fabric detail. That's right, a piece of furniture! I make wooden benches using Pine wood 2X4's (I love carpentry), and I embellish their simple design with gold posts and fabric-covered struts. They are 3' tall, 5' long and only weigh 8 lbs. Perfect for any room of the house (mine is in my dining room)!
≥ $1000 - Post card, and you choose a community or regional organization at which you'd like me to contribute a writing sample, a talk, or a visit -- a place you think my story would resonate with the folks (kids and/or adults) and inspire them on their journeys.
West African textiles are some of the most beautiful, ornate fabrics in the world. For years, I have incorporated them into my wardrobe on and off the track (headband, bracelet, skirt, etc.). I also LOVE to create any and everything so I make key chains, wooden benches and framed quotes (they're all around my room), using fabric I love. The key chains, benches and frames will use fabrics from my personal collection so you'll have a "piece of me," if you will. Plus they're functional. Every quote I frame will be one that I use personally, to motivate myself or put my journey as an athlete into perspective -- these are quotes from some of my favorite inspirational writers, leaders and thinkers like Paulo Coelho, Nelson Mandela, and Mohammed Ali. The benches are a unique, beautiful and completely functional piece of furniture that will add value and beauty to any room!
In sport and health,