In London, an Olympic vacation: Former Olympian turned MTSU professor gives back to sport
Andrew Owusu is not your typical college professor.
Most days, he is a professor in MTSU’s Department of Health and Human Performance, and a part-time assistant track coach under Dean Hayes.
But these days are not most days.
While many students and professors are enjoying summer vacations, Owusu is in London, serving as an assistant coach for his native Ghana’s track and field team. Nothing in the Olympics is earned on a lark, and Owusu’s position is no exception.
Owusu is the former Ghanaian record holder in the long jump and currently holds the record in the triple jump. He competed for Ghana in the 1996, 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games, and boasts a decorated career in continental competitions in Africa.
He is using his knowledge to mentor Ghanaian long jumper Ignisious Gaisah, as well as Margaret Simpson, a heptathlete who Owusu is coaching in the jumping aspects of the heptathlon. A heptathlon is a contest of seven track and field events.
“Fortunately for us, all of our track and field athletes who qualified for the Olympics this time around, this is not their first Olympics, so they have been here a couple of times,” Owusu said from the Olympic village in London. “Although I will say having me around is quite useful for them because I can relate to a lot of the issues and concerns that they may have, both physically as well as psychologically, so I think it is a plus for us.”
Owusu came up short in his quest to medal in the Olympics, but the benefit of his experience he now attempts to impart as a coach is the same experience he remembers fondly when he was a participant.
“Qualifying for the Olympics is really a difficult thing,” Owusu said. “So just by virtue of being able to qualify three different times is an achievement and something that I am proud of. I did not win a medal in my three times that I competed in the Olympics, but for me that was not the most important part… I think what I would consider the most important Olympic experience is all the different people that I met and continued to interact with who, were it not for the Olympics, I probably would not have come in contact with them.”
Two faces in the Olympic Village in London may be familiar to Owusu, but not from previous Olympic Games.
Noah Akwu, a rising senior at MTSU, and Stanley Gbagbeke, a 2010 MT graduate, will both compete for Nigeria. Akwu will run in the 200 meters, while Gbagbeke will compete in the long jump.
Owusu said he has seen both Akwu and Gbagbeke several times in the Olympic Village, and the occasion of coaching in opposition to athletes he is used to coaching himself has provoked some amusing conversation.
“I don’t necessarily consider them a rival,” Owusu said. “Our long jumper from Ghana did ask, ‘So, what’s going to happen when both Stanley and I are jumping,’ and I said, ‘Well, Stanley will have a coach from Nigeria, who will be helping him with the jumps,’ but yeah, it is an interesting question.”
Also interesting is the path that brought Owusu to MTSU.
Owusu racked up eight All-American honors at Alabama, and graduated with a degree in biology. He moved on to Wayne State College, where he picked up a master’s in sports administration and management, before coming to MT for his doctorate in human performance.
He arrived in Murfreesboro in 1999, and completed his studies in 2004. In 2005, he joined the faculty as an assistant professor. He coaches horizontal jumps for MT track.
Now he is spending his summer vacation coaching for his country at the highest level of competition in the world.
What typical college professor can say that?