Sam Effah is the fastest man, not only at the University of Calgary, but in all of Canada. Competing in track for only four years, Effah clocks in at 10.06 seconds for the 100-metre dash-- only four Canadians in history have a faster record.
With the London Olympics just around the corner, Effah is constantly training. He still finds time, however, to volunteer for Right to Play, an awareness campaign promoting teamwork and sport to "improve the lives of children in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the world by using the power of sport and play for development, health and peace." The international humanitarian and development organization promotes change in war-torn countries and is working towards equal opportunities for children around the world.
On Sept. 16-18, Right to Play and Canadian Interuniversity Sport joined a "go shoeless" initiative, where teams competed shoeless, to raise awareness for those who do not have access to sports and proper sporting equipment around the world. Together, over 30 universities, including the U of C, went shoeless to help "create a healthier and safer world through the power of sport and play."
In a press release, Robert Witchell, Right to Play's Canadian national director, said "we're proud of this meaningful campaign that not only supports every child's right to play, but allows Canadian athletes to enrich their educational experience and create a safer and healthier world through sport."
The Gauntlet caught up with Effah to chat about the Olympics, school, Right to Play and more.
The Gauntlet: What has been your greatest accomplishment so far in your career as a professional athlete?
Sam Effah: I guess my greatest accomplishment is my personal best in Florida last year-- it was against guys who won medals at world meets. To be able to win medals against guys who have broken the 10 barrier is huge-- a lot of them have been on the Olympic stage. But my proudest moment was winning Nationals in Calgary. I won it the year before, but because it was here it was in front of a home town crowd, I had the support of the university, friends, family and teammates around me.
G: What are some of the goals you set for yourself as a high school athlete transitioning to a collegiate and professional athlete?
E: I have always had a lot of goals with sport. I always wanted to play football and I didn't know that track would be number one. I now want my goal to be the Olympics and I want to make that a reality next year. My goals are less progressive-- my goals have always been the Olympics. Along the way there are going to be stepping-stones like the University Games and World Championships. But if you want it, you really just have to shoot for it.
G: Considering your success and interest in other sports, like varsity football, why track?
SE: I had the same coach in high school that I have now and she just had faith in my expectations and talents. And from then, I just took on track fully from my first year until now.
G: How does it feel representing Canada on the world stage?
SE: It's cool representing Canada, but I am doing this for the one goal. I am glad people are supporting me and watching me, but the crowd is not what pushes me. In order to perform, I can't think about the pressure of the country and I have to do it for myself. Ultimately, it is me against seven other guys on the track, but that being said, when I think about the big picture, outside of the track itself, the support I receive is really outstanding.
G: How does it feel when you are training with your teammates on the Dinos track team as a role model and as a teammate?
SE: It's a good feeling having people look up to me, but these are my teammates, we push each other in training. We are all training and are competitors against each other. We are all training towards the same goal, so once we are on the track, it comes down to individual goals and those goals are met when we push each other in practice. As a team, we help each other prepare for the big meets.
G: What are the key aspects of your training that have contributed to your success?
SE: Brenda, my coach, is great support. Her program definitely works for me and other people on the team. Amonn [Nelson], who also runs for world meets, is a huge part of Dinos track and she [pushes the team]. I get a lot of support from my family and friends. I have a lot of support within my neighborhood; a couple years ago they did a fundraiser for me that helped me compete on the world stage.
G: With the 2012 London Olympics coming up in the next year, what goals do you plan on accomplishing?
SE: My ultimate goal is to win a medal next year. It is going to take a lot of work, but I feel with the situation I have in Calgary, it is possible. I just need to stay injury free and train smart.
G: How does your life outside of running influence your success as a whole?
SE: Running gives me ambition to excel in school and in anything I pursue. But within the sport itself, it is definitely a great lifestyle because it keeps me active and the friends and people in my life are involved in track and sports. It is a busy lifestyle and it is something I enjoy. I have to keep focused-- it affects my lifestyle because a lot of the time I am away.
I train most of the day, but when I am not training I am with friends or studying. It's like having a full-time job. A lot of people work, track is my job.
G: Has your lifestyle changed due to the upcoming Olympics-- are you more focused?
SE: My balance has not really changed, I am trying to stay focused. I have been successful doing the same training techniques, with the same work ethic. I just choose not to change things. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
G: What are some of the things you do off the track that keep you grounded?
SE: I am involved with Right to Play and I like to coach. I coach Dinos youth and that involved a lot of volunteering. I volunteer at events that promote Right to Play and I am an athlete ambassador.
G: What is it that has motivated you to give back to the community around you?
SE: I give back because I want to-- it is not an obligation. I do this because I enjoy the program because it helps others. As a volunteer with Right to Play, I hope to get Dinos track more involved with philanthropy, as well as other varsity teams at the U of C. Committing to a sport at a collegiate or international level is all-encompassing, and I think there is a lot to be said for those athletes and teams that give back to the community that supports them.