Sam Effah is not only one of the most decorated athletes competing for the University of Calgary. He's also the fastest man in Canadian Interuniversity Sport history.
"That's kind of a cool label to have," says Effah. "That means a lot, knowing that somebody from Calgary has that. Short sprints are definitely centred in Ontario. They have a lot of really good guys, but for us to have a record out here shows that CanWest has great competitors and we've been doing well."
He broke the CIS record in the 60-metres in a qualifying heat at the CIS championships two weeks ago and won the gold medal in that and the 300-metres. Effah has won three straight gold in the 60-metres event and two in three years in the 300-metres -- all pretty impressive for someone who just started taking track seriously in his first year of university.
While in high school at Sir Winston Churchill in Calgary, Effah played rugby and football. Track was an afterthought; he would enter at the end of the year because you got to miss a day of school.
"I always felt I was pretty fast," he says.
His coach secured him a spot in the junior nationals and a chance to run against the best sprinters in the country. It was only his fifth or sixth race, but he posted a time of 10.7 seconds in the 100-metres, placing him fifth.
"That was a big shock to a lot of people," he says. ". . . Once I ran that I felt like this definitely could be something I could be good at. It was something I didn't really take serious and I was actually throwing down somewhat legitimate times."
So he began training, and narrowly missed out on an opportunity to go to Beijing for the 2008 Summer Olympics. He was unable to get funded because he finished just out of the top three in the 200-metres at the national meet and didn't qualify for the finals in the 100.
"It hurt definitely, but at the time I was 19," Effah explains. "Being in the sport for two years at the time, being 19, it wasn't a huge blow to my self-esteem."
He would finish fourth in the 200-metres at the next nationals and earned a chance to run against Usain Bolt in the world championships in Berlin.
Now the fourth-year marketing student has his sight set on 2012 and the next Olympics in London.
"People have dreams to go to the NFL, the CFL, pro soccer," says Effah. "This is my dream. For me to do that and have family, friends, the University of Calgary behind me, would be just huge. Because people would look up to me."