A number of Ghanaian athletes have shown massive progress and development in their Grappling skills following a wide range of success in the International Grappling GI Techniques Demonstration virtual tournament which took place against athletes from many European countries including Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Norway, Serbia, Spain, Sweden and Ukraine at the end of last month.
Grappling, a combat sport involving different categories including ankle lock, leg bar, neck bar, side Americana, anaconda choke, neck choke, naked choke and is currently run in Ghana by the Professional Combat Sports Association and governed worldwide by the International Grappling Federation (IGF).
Despite the inconveniences of the Covid-19 pandemic which stalled the progress of the sport in the country as well as participation in international competitions, the association held the one-day tournament virtually versus athletes from these European countries on 24 May. Ranging from under 9s boys and girls, under 11 boys, under 13 boys and girls, adults and veteran categories, athletes competed sternly with the still burgeoning Ghanaian contingent chalking an impressive array of success, as the only participating African country.
In the event, 7-year-old Leon Afrim Bernie-Johnson finished 4th in the boys under 9 category, the Lithuania trio of Jokubas Smimovas, Justas Smimovas and Algindas Sederevicius edging the top three places in that order. Young Bernie-Johnson attends the Hope of Glory Montessori School in Mamprobi, Accra.
The girls under 9 years division saw another Ghanaian pride as 6-year-old pupil of Day Spring Montessori International School, Dansoman, Accra, Maame Akosua Animah Nhyira Aboagye took the runner-up spot, just behind Lithuania’s Paulina Smimovaite.
Only boys competed at the under 11 level and again there was a finish on the podium for Team Ghana after Aaron Bentum Bernie-Johnson, 10, also a pupil of Hope of God Montessori School emerged third, the first position going to Vakaris Rudokas of Lithuania whilst his compatriot, Markas Bataitis finished 2nd.
Ghana had no representation in the under 13 girls category but 12 year old also Hope of God School pupil, Zoe Amoonu Bernie-Johnson made sure Ghana earned a 4th place finish in the boys division of the same age bracket that was topped by Erikas Kozlovskis, followed in runner-up spot by Liutauras Golubovskij and Elija Gavrilovs in third place.
Ghana’s main success however came in the adults’ male category where even though Natas Akmanavicius of Lithuania emerged the champ, three Ghanaians took the remaining slots on the podium. Abdul Malik Adjei, Ishmael Lantei Lamptey and Aubrey Owusu Ansah finished second, third and fourth respectively in addition to 21-year-old Getrude Kumi, a fashion designer also winning third place in the women event.
In the end, Evans Bernie-Johnson, President of the Ghana Professional Combat Sports Association expressed heartfelt appreciation and satisfaction for the continued success of Grappling and other combat sports in the country and heaped praises on the coach, Maxwell Borquaye.
“The virtual tournament is an innovation that has been forced on us by the unfortunate circumstances of the Covid pandemic but it’s been a unique experience and most of the athletes enjoyed the competition. Above all, we are happy our athletes did very well even though this was something entirely new to many of them,” said Mr, Bernie-Johnson.
“Clearly we are moving in the right direction with a massive room for improvement with the good work our coaches are doing-especially Master Maxwell Borquaye who prepared them. We just hope to get the requisite government and corporate support to promote the sport throughout the country because it can bring more medals and international exposure to Ghana,” he explained.
Evans Bernie-Johnson added: “We have also taken turns to train some sports journalists in the art of self-defence and we intend to extend to other professionals too because such skills are essential for all. For now we have a world championship competition in Spain in September so the athletes will move to camp soon to start preparations.”