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Going Global: Investigating the Ghana triathlon scene

“It could be Cool Runnings or Eric the Eel!” We speak to Tarek Mouganie about the burgeoning tri scene in West Africa

Devouring a roasted pepper tartlet in a swish Richmond deli may not conjure up visions of running on dusty west African trails, but sat before us is Tarek Mouganie (pictured), the shining light of Ghanaian triathlon.

Following Chris Symonds’ outing for Ghana at the 2006 Commonwealth Games, Mouganie is the second athlete to represent the west African nation in triathlon, finishing fourth in the 30–34 age-group category in Cape Town, before racing again at Hyde Park in May.

A second generation Ghanaian (Tarek’s grandparents hail from Lebanon), Mouganie is a man well-travelled, earning a PhD in something called Applied Superconductivity at Cambridge before working in high-powered positions in the City. Mouganie came to tri in 2009 and, despite having never swam or cycled in his life, completed his first tri that summer under the watch of coach Fiona Ford.

STARTING FROM SCRATCH

An Ironman followed in 2010 before Tarek moved back to Ghana in 2012 to start a company that invests in small businesses. It was here that he met Bawah Fuseini, the then secretary of the Ghana Athletics Association. Together, under the umbrella of the Ghana Athletics Association, the duo formed the Ghana Triathlon Federation in the capital Accra. “The results won’t be overnight, but I truly believe it can be done,” enthuses Mouganie. “It’s a blessing that we’re not inheriting something with issues, but rather starting it from scratch.”

The Ghanaian football team, plenty of whom are millionaires, recently made headlines for demanding $3m in cash from the government for appearance fees at the World Cup, with one player seen kissing his $100,000 wad of cash. Already unsavoury, the story also highlights the skewed priorities of state funding in Ghana. “It’s very hard to get money off the government as they’ve cut all funding for sport apart from football, and our annual budget for this year is $5,000.

“We could buy equipment but who do we give the bikes to? We have no idea who the athletes are! So we’re going to target everyone who has a bike, an ability to swim and see what happens,” continues Tarek. “Some of the athletes will be great, some just curious, and that’ll help us figure out what the talent is out there. And then we’ll see how we can replicate that across other cities in Ghana and incubate talent that way. It could be Cool Runnings or Eric the Eel!”

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