National sprinter needs transportation to training

There’s no doubt that much talent lies within the borders of the Town of Ponoka — one of those talents is a 16-year-old world junior champion sprinter.

By Jasmine Franklin

There’s no doubt that much talent lies within the borders of the Town of Ponoka — one of those talents is a 16-year-old world junior champion sprinter.

Heading to the Athletics Canada High Performance Development Relay Camp, it’s no surprise that Ponoka’s Isatu Fofanah is graced with a gift that comes in the form of running.

“She never wants to draw attention to herself but she’s incredible,” said Edmonton coach Walter Dong. “Her next stop beyond world junior’s is nationals.”

But Fofanah has been faced with a few roadblocks.

Loss of ride to training sessions

“She used to train with a fellow out of Red Deer but he has moved to Saskatchewan and Isatu has lost her ride to Edmonton to train,” Dong said. “Because she can only train here at the University of Alberta once or twice per week she’s been doing her training in the hallways of her high school.”

Fofanah wishes she could train for the 200-metre sprint every day of the week — that’s the kind of practice she needs to progress.

“I can’t really do anything, training-wise, in Ponoka because we have no track here,” she said. “I want to be practicing as much as I can.”

Fofanah’s guardian and aunt, Yabu Bangura, occasionally takes her into Edmonton whenever she can but it is not as often as her training requires.

“I work full-time and can only take her on Monday’s,” Bangura said. “It’ really important she gets to practice, she’s really good but needs to continue to train.”

In the meantime, Fofanah works out in her Ponoka Composite High School hallways to try and keep up, along with working out with weights. She is also a member of the basketball team, which helps to keep her in shape.

“I send her workouts to her by text message but I mean, to be a faster runner you have to train beyond your distance,” Dong said. “Her hallways are only 56 metres.”

The family is hoping to find someone who can drive Fofanah to her practices about twice per week. Anyone wishing to help, is asked to contact Bangura at

Heading to Baton Rouge, Lousiana

Fofanah’s excellence has won her a spot at this year’s high performance development relay camp April 13 to 22, geared to assist junior athlete and helping to develop them and enhance their chances of progressing.

She will get to train alongside 2010 Olympic Games athletes, the top women’s sprinters from all over Canada, and former Canadian gold medal track Olympians Glenroy Gilbert and Molly Killingbeck.

“Track is just something I like doing,” Fofanah said. “It’s kind of like my retreat and I would like to be able to take it to the 2012 Summer Olympics.”

Dong met Fofanah two years ago when she showed up to a Calgary session admitting she had never run track before. Beating the “living daylight” out of all other runners, Dong knew there was something special about her.

“Track is more of a life lesson to her,” he said. “She’s full of innocence and determination.”

In three years, Dong is most certain Fofanah will make it to the Olympics in London, England.

“Her face and name will be everywhere,” he said.

For more information, Dong can be contacted at (780) 235-7774.

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