Former Olympian, Lincoln Sailor Shares Dreams of Gold

Story Number: NNS080809-01Release Date: 8/9/2008 5:08:00 AM
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By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Justin Blake, USS Abraham Lincoln Public Affairs

USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN (NNS) -- On the eve of the 29th Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) learned one of her Sailors, a native of Ghana and now a naturalized U.S. citizen, competed in the 1996 games in Atlanta and the 2000 games in Sydney, which opened up a whole new world for the one-time Olympic sprinter.

In August 1996 Albert Agyemang competed for the Ghana National Team in the Atlanta Summer Olympics in the 200-meter and 400-meter relays. Jump ahead 12 years and Agyemang is a personnel specialist 3rd class assigned to the administrative department aboard USS Abraham Lincoln.

Agyemang works in personnel division's customer service area, updating records for all of Lincoln's crew. As a personnel customer service representative, Agyemang uses the same determination and professionalism that got him to the Olympics.

At the age of 16 in 1993, Agyemang, a native of Accra, Ghana, began running competitively, becoming one of the West African country's quickest and most determined runners. During the 1995 African Games, the Ghana National team beat out the superior Nigerian team in a thrilling upset.

"We go [to the African Games] and beat Nigeria, a really good team and the Olympic Committee was so impressed that they moved us to Germany to begin training full-time," Agyemang said.

Qualifying to compete for his home country came by chance. Agyemang's usual race was the 100-meter, but after a poor showing, he didn't qualify. On a whim, Agyemang tried the 200-meter race and made the Olympic qualification time.

"After failing at the 100-meter, I took a chance at the 200-meter and punched my ticket for Atlanta," Agyemang said.

Agyemang made it to the quarterfinals in Atlanta finishing fifth in the 200-meter race. His relay team made it to the finals in a match against the United States in the 400-meter relay. The Ghana team was disqualified on a misinterpretation of the rules, Agyemang said.

"We were so excited to make it that far and to be going up against the Americans was unbelievable," Agyemang said. "It's a shame that we weren't able to compete on a technicality."

Agyemang, whose fastest 200-meter run time was 20.64 seconds, was also invited to the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia, only making it through preliminary.
In Agyemang's home country of Ghana, sports are not as popular as in the United States. Citizens there believe a man is wasting his time on sports when he could be furthering his education, Agyemang explained.

With that going against him, Agyemang's father pushed him to attain a scholarship in the United States.

"My father read a lot about the United States and it being the land of opportunity," Agyemang said. "He made me promise to pursue the highest education possible."

With little chance of earning a scholarship in Ghana, Agyemang wanted to further his education so he took his father's advice.

"My father said, 'Use your legs,'" Agyemang said. He soon earned an athletic scholarship to Southern University in New Orleans, and later transferred to Middle Tennessee State, where he earned a bachelor's degree in economics.

After completing four years of school, Agyemang set out to make a life for himself outside of running. He soon married Stella Benson and took a sales job at a retail department store.

"I had finished my bachelor's and was working a standard sales job, making a good living," Agyemang said.

Agyemang's decent living was soon over. His company needed to save money, so his hours were cut along with his medical coverage. Now supporting a family, Agyemang needed to make a choice.

"I did research on the U.S. military and realized all the benefits were just what I needed," said Agyemang.

The steady income, education, leadership opportunities, medical benefits and travel made the military an easy choice.

"Having that peace of mind with a paycheck always being there, I wouldn't have more anxious moments," Agyemang said.

Agyemang joined the Navy in December of 2004 and became a U.S. citizen in February 2005. After completing Personnelman "A" school in Meridan, Miss., Agyemang transferred to Navy Operational Support Center in Avoca, Pa. and later transferred to Lincoln during this deployment.

"The military has given me a lot of paths to choose from, first and foremost education," Agyemang said. "I plan on using the education benefits to fulfill the promise I made to my father."

Lincoln is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations to support Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom as well as Maritime Security Operations (MSO). Operations in the 5th Fleet area of responsibility are focused on reassuring regional partners of the United States commitment to security, which promotes stability and global

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The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) underway at high speed in the Western Pacific Ocean.
Official U.S. Navy file photo.
April 5, 2008
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