Bucking the trend of childhood teddy-bears, Sam Effah has been cheered on to sprinting supremacy by coaches, teammates and a stuffed dog with no name.
Though he didn't enter the sport until his last year in high school, Sam Effah has developed so fast as a sprinter that he has become the number-one seed in each of his events entering this weekend's CIS championship. His performance thus far has been so good, it has pushed him to set a goal of representing Canada in the Olympics in 2012 and, perhaps, even 2008.
Effah was a football player in high school and though that is where he felt his talents might lie, he found that he was too small for his position. With this in mind, he took up track and field, finding that he was best-suited to short events relying on speed. In his first year racing, he competed in the high school city championships and the junior nationals. Following his entry into the University of Calgary as a communication and culture major looking to enter a management career, Effah continued to perform well, again competing in the junior nationals--as he was young enough to do so--as well as the senior nationals, CW championships and the CIS championships. That was last year.
This indoor track season, Effah has turned in even better results, entering CIS championships ranked first in the 60 metre--in which he set a U of C record this year with a 6.72 second time--the 300 metre and both the 4x200 metre and 4x400 metre relays. The ranking, though, has not given him a work-ethic-destroying swagger.
"I'm pretty confident in the relays, but in the individual events I really need to step it up, because other competitors are a lot closer," says Effah. "I think if I really focus and continue doing what I'm doing, I should have a good shot at the title."
It is his humble nature that is most striking about this remarkable athlete. Effah remarkably plays down the fact that he may have a shot at making the national relay team and competing in the Beijing Olympics this summer. In a couple weeks he will fly to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at the invitation of the national team coach, to compete for a spot on Canada's 4x100 metre relay team.
"Right now I'm the underdog and they're choosing the top five guys across Canada to go to the Beijing Olympics," says Effah. "They take the top eight to this camp and then basically see who is the best with the baton, who is the fastest. Right now, I'm ranked number eight. If I can really improve my running, there's a small chance I can go."
His goal for the immediate future is to medal at the Olympic trials this summer, moving up from eighth in the 100 metre and fifth in the 200 metre. If he doesn't make the Olympic roster, Effah will be heading to the North American and Caribbean Under-23 games.
Effah also plans to continue competing for the Dinos until his eligibility runs dry, a team he thoroughly enjoys running with, acknowledging both the strong coaching and team comradeship as positive influences. He even coaches the Dinos youth program.
"I got into track so late and I kinda wish I had the opportunity to at an early age," says Effah. "Dino youth is a good thing."
And no, Effah, the speedster with two older brothers and an elementary-aged sister, who enjoys spending the small amount of free time track affords him hanging out with his friends, does not have a teddy-bear.
"I have a toy dog that I never really gave a name that just lays around in the room," he says.