Mormon Olympic hopeful from Ghana learned priceless lessons on mission
After his Mormon mission, Laryea-Akrong's talent soared and he was faster than ever. He went from not running competitively for two years to being selected to go to the National Sports Festival. After finishing in the top four, he was selected for the national team in Ghana and soon traveled to Ethiopia for the African Championship.
Soon after the African Championship, Laryea-Akrong received a call from the track coach at UVU asking him to come to the United States. At the same time, Laryea-Akrong's team had just qualified to run in the team relay at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Facing a tough decision, he had his visa ready to go to China, but his team didn't have enough money to send him to Germany to train before the Games.
Instead, Ghana sent a team of athletes already training in Germany to the Olympics.
It was in 2009, while attending UVU, that Laryea-Akrong met his future wife, Megan, at their singles ward. They were engaged in September 2011 and married last December.
In June 2011, Megan's mother and stepfather, Nena and Mark, attended their first track meet. After the race, Laryea-Akrong told them that no one had ever come to see him run. Since then, they vowed to attend as many meets as they could and have traveled to Idaho, California and Nevada.
"With that support given me, I couldn't ask for anything better than that," Laryea-Akrong said. "They just keep coming and coming, and I feel so glad running to the finish line, hopefully I hear them yell my name and I come up with a smile and then we go celebrate. I feel good knowing there are people watching me do something I love."
It wasn't until the National Athletic Championship at the El-Wak Sports Stadium, where Laryea-Akrong almost qualified for the Olympics, that his father got to watch him run in competition for the first time — at the same stadium where, at age 13, his dad had first bragged to his friends that his son could run. "That was really exciting to have my dad there and to have me run that good, to run a personal record for him to witness. He's just happy that I can run and go to school and have an education but he had not seen me run, so to see me do that was exciting and he loved it and he told me how impressed he was, and I thought, 'Great that I made my dad proud.’”
Laryea-Akrong has learned many things from his setbacks and accomplishments in running. "I've learned to just focus. I mean, it's hard to focus when you have to go to work at 6 o'clock, go to school, come back, go to track and have a wife and have a family, but I mean I've learned to do that, and the biggest of all is just rely on the Lord.
"Everything I'm doing is adding up, and every year it gets better and better and better, and I feel like I can really achieve that dream of going to Olympic Games, and it happened the way it happened, but I mean I still learned and see that there's more I can improve on and get to that dream one day."
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