Athletics | National

Cadman Yamoah: One Golden Jump, One Giant Leap for Ghana

Evans Yamoah celebrates 2.23m jump that won gold at African Games 2023 (image source: Persis Ashley via X @ashleyjics)

"I am still living as though I just high-jumped yesterday," Cadman Yamoah says.

He had just woken up from sleep. The tone of his voice told the story enough. After a long flight from Accra to Missouri, he needed it.

When his phone rang barely 15 minutes before 9 am, Missouri time, it was all the reminder he needed to sit across his camera for a conversation via the virtual video platform, Zoom.

His background was the perfect definition of a sportsman. On his right, there was a dartboard with three red and three green pointed projectiles. At the opposite end, there was a pool, and before him a red carpet on his table.

Evans Yamoah speaking to JoySports' Muftawu Nabila Abdulai from his base, Missouri.

In a two-coloured sweater - yellow and brown, its hoodie sitting on his shoulder, with the inscription "dreamer" on his chest, and arms folded, a smile playing on his lips, as he reflected on his recent achievement – a monumental 2.23m leap in Accra that had left spectators in awe.

The "dreamer" on that shirt was not a coincidence.

"I am still having a hard time believing I did that," he says with his fingers in his eyes, clearing the disbelief, and nodding his head in unison.

It was a monstrous leap of a height never witnessed in the annals of Ghana's field events at the African Games, per data available at World Athletics.

"But, I am still Evans Yamoah, and nothing has changed about me," he said humbly "I am still the high jumper who is willing to succeed, and this success is just a stepping stone, I guess."

Yamoah arrived in Accra as the unknown arsenal Ghanaians didn’t know they had. A Ghana University Games High jump record holder at 2.11m, but his talent stayed in the confines of the University of Ghana until the University of Central Missouri came his way about 15 months ago.

Cadman Evans Yamoah competing at NcAA (image source: University of Central Missouri media)

Since that discovery, Cadman impersonates eagles, flying with speed and precision, and with pressure.

"[Winning the high jump gold in the African Games] feels like there's more pressure on me right now because being a continental champ means that there's more to come and more to do, so this will be a motivation, this is something that's going to push me into achieving more and wanting more for myself, my family, my friends and the lovely people of Ghana.

"It is going to be tough, but I am going to push through. That's what I am going to do, and that's what I am willing to do," he states.

These words encapsulate the humility and disbelief that accompany his remarkable journey to success.

For the former University of Ghana student, the journey to becoming a high jump champion was as unexpected as it was extraordinary.

From his humble beginnings as a football enthusiast in Mamprobi to his transformation into a record-breaking athlete, his path was a testament to the power of perseverance and self-discovery.

Cadman Evans Yamoah - middle in gloves with teammates (image source: Cadman)

"My story about high jump," he starts a chronology of his new found love.

"I keep telling everyone that I wasn't a higher jumper. I was a football player and a really good player," Yamoah recalled, his voice filled with nostalgia.

"I started with FC Barca kids in Mamprobi and played really well and had many scouts come in and try to sign me, but my dad wasn't a fan of me being in a football academy.

"When I went to Swedru Senior High School, I played in the football team, I played in the basketball team, I tried volleyball and I tried handball. So it's like anything other than athletics, I took part."

Cadman Evans Yamoah
Cadman Evans Yamoah far left in gloves at the training ground at Swedru stadium

Track and field was that sport that gripped him with fear, and sent shivers down his spine.

"I saw one of my seniors suffer a severe injury from high jump - they were practising, and he had a serious injury. Since that injury, it shaped my idea of high jump, so I never wanted to get involved in high jump," he explains.

Despite his initial reluctance, fate intervened, leading him to discover his latent talent for high jump.

"My best friend, Emmanuel Desu, he was a high jumper for the school since we went to SHS 1, and I saw him jump, but as I said, I never wanted to be a high jumper.

"One faithful day after school, I came out to train with the football team, but they were not ready yet," he recalls with a grin.

The delay of the football team's training session would bring a talent he never thought he had.

Cadman Evans Yamoah playing football at the University of Ghana

"I was like, since the soccer team is not ready, let me just try one jump and go for my training," he says.

"The funny thing is," he begins the narration, "I didn't use the approach they were using. I just hurled over the bar and walked away so one of them came to me and was like, 'Did you just do that? That's the high school record you just scaled over.' I told him I had no idea what I just did."

It was a leap that began the genesis of how this 23-year-old turned hearts and souls at the University of Ghana stadium, on March 22, 2024, during the African Games.

The school's physical education teacher saw a gold and decided to mine it.

"Our P.E (Physical Education) teacher, Mr Nicholas, came to me and was like, 'Where have you been all this while?' I said, 'I am still in school, and I play for the school team.'

"He said, 'We need a high jumper like you', but I told him I don't think I can do it.

"He said we practice every Saturday morning, so if I'm interested, I could come around for practice, but I wasn't, so I brushed it aside."

If Mr Nicholas' call to have him pursue this discipline wouldn't yield results, a resolve to escape mundane routines would ultimately lead him to embrace high jump.

"We had this house inspection every Saturday in high school, and that's something that I wasn't a fan of. I wasn't a dirty guy, but I wasn't a fan of standing for hours and waiting for people to come and inspect my room so I saw the high jump on Saturday as a perfect avenue to skip the house inspection."

He might have skipped the house inspection, but could not divine decree.

"Fast forward, I represented my hall, De Graft Johnson Hall, in the inter-hall competition. My friend [Desu] came first, and I came second.

Emmanuel Desu, a schoolmate-turned-brother is a multitalented athlete

"However, my friend cleared the high school record on his first attempt, but I was made to jump four times which is illegal. They wanted me to see if I could jump the high jump school record and I eventually cleared it, but in the books, it's in the name of my friend.

"Then we carried on to the inter-co level where I won with a height of 1.85m, and in the Super Zonals, I came first, and my friend came second. That's where the University of Ghana actually came and offered me a scholarship, but knowing my dad, I kept it to myself. I didn't tell him anything."

He passed on the scholarship opportunity to his friend, a gentleman he describes as his brother and an idol.

"Emma was and still is a better athlete than I am right now because he can do all the events you can think of other than Pole Vault, and I can do only high jump," he says of his schoolmate-turned-brother.

"He really motivated and pushed me because he's been in the game for God knows how long. To me, if you take Cristiano Ronaldo out of the picture, he was my idol back in school and still my idol."

Ghana's premier University, Legon served its own dish.

"This was where my success in high jump began. Coach [Emmanuel] Bruce-Okine took over and showed me the technique in high jump, and I started clearing higher bars and all that," he says.

Working with Mr Bruce-Okine felt like a union built many years ago.

"When coach Bruce took over, I felt something great coming because a kid jumping 1.85m, and in my first inter-hall, I jumped 2m."

That was a massive transformation for this kid, but the student hall he found himself in, Commonwealth Hall, one of the renowned Halls in Ghana's Universities, would make an even bigger impact.

"The Hall I was in, the Commonwealth Hall, I felt everything was syncing perfectly. The way they behave and the way they carry themselves really shaped me into being a better athlete.

"When they're doing something, they go all out, and they don't care. They do everything out of passion, so during our first inter-hall, they came out in their numbers to cheer me during the African Games. That's exactly what happened in my first year.

"They would tell me they had their money behind me. That means they were gambling in the stands, but I was not sure I could beat my competitors because they were names already in the school, but they insisted that I was from Commonwealth Hall and I should jump higher than the Mensah Sarbah guy.

"That was the first time I really felt pressured, but their morale really did the magic.

"From there, Coach Bruce never gave up on me."

His coach never gave up on him, but there were setbacks, including moments of self-doubt and disappointment that forced him to give up on himself.

"At some point, I stopped athletics because the system was not fair, there's a pause.

Yamoah was so good that even his critics admired him, but missing out on the African University Games in Egypt was one that almost killed a dream

"I got injured, my name was not making the list whenever they were travelling to other countries, I felt the school didn't see my worth so I went back to playing soccer and stopped track and field.

"On the soccer field, I sustained a shoulder injury and decided to stop because I felt maybe sports wasn't my thing because the more I tried, the more I got hurt.

"So I decided to pay more attention to my academics and forgot about the sport. So I took my classes seriously and didn't show up for practice. Coach Bruce was upset, but I was in school to study and not to do sports.

"So he kept calling, and he kept sending people my way to convince me to come back to high jump because he believed I was the best in the university.

Emmanuel Bruce-Okine - Cadman's former coach at University of Ghana.

"I had the GUSA record in 2020, and I did it again in 2022," he says

"Then I had a call from the school I am right now. They said they saw one of my videos, and I jumped on grass, and they believed if they moved me from grass to track, I would do wonders.

"But I was not doing anything athletics because I had given up as I said, but I was like since it's coming from the US, let me give it a try because everyone wants to leave the country.”

He gave it a try and the unwavering support of mentors and the allure of a new opportunity reignited Yamoah's passion for high jump. 

"When I was going through my documentation for the University of Central Missouri, the University of Ghana lecturers were not selfish.

"They showed me everything there's to know about travelling outside and that was when I really took my high jump seriously again because I was jumping 2.06m."

His dedication and perseverance culminated in a triumphant moment at the African Games 2023, where he soared to new heights and clinched the gold medal with a jump of 2.23m. 

"That day, the last jump, 2.23m. When I saw the Moroccan guy [Hammouda Saad] scale the 2.21m, I lost control. I told myself it was now or never; either I win this or I lose it because I was ranked first throughout the event, and all of sudden, this kid was taking control.

"Trust me, if he jumped the 2.23m that I cleared, there would have been a bloodbath on the field.

"My coaches know this. They know I don't accept defeat; I always push myself to the point my body can't take it anymore. So, I was more than willing to make Ghanaians proud, to make Commonwealth Hall proud, my family, coaches, and everyone proud.”

Proud he made himself, and his countrymen and women shared in his pride. To whoop it up, he found inspiration in the signature celebration of another idol, the global football icon, Cristiano Ronaldo.

"When I cleared the height, I couldn't believe what I just did. If you see the reaction from the mat to the ground, I couldn't believe what I did," he recounts.

Evans Yamoah scales 2.23m to win gold at African Games 2023 (image source: Persis Ashley via X @ashleyjics)

When he rose to his feet, his index finger pointed to the sky involuntarily, and guess who came to mind? The man who has even kids on the streets celebrating "siuuuu".

"In the world of football," he says "if you want a celebration that gets the crowd going, the siuuu celebration is one of the best, so when I got up from the mat and started swinging my index finger in the air, the only thing that came to mind was to get the crowd cheering, and Ronaldo is my idol so he was the only one that I could think of."

Cadman and Ronaldo share two things in common: the hunger to succeed and the ability to fly and meet a target.

Evans Yamoah imitating Cristiano Ronaldo's iconic celebration (image source: Persis Ashley via X @ashleyjics)

When Ronaldo flies in the air, he's nodding the ball into the back of the net of his opponent, and when Yamoah flies, he flies for gold.

"Cristiano Ronaldo has a lot of impact on me," he says.

"His work ethic is one of the best. This is a guy who doesn't focus on himself, but he wants his team to succeed, too, and we have seen that in so many of his games," he notes.

Reflecting on his journey, Yamoah remains steadfast in his commitment to excellence and the pursuit of new heights.

"Everyone is trying to qualify for the Olympics, and having achieved this height, a new PR [Personal Record], I am going to the drawing board to reset our minds and rechannel our focus. Those 2.15 or 2.16m bars, we are not focusing on that again. We are going to practice with 2.25 or 2.35m."

Evans Yamoah receives gold medal at African Games
Evans Yamoah receives gold medal at African Games

As Yamoah continues to inspire and uplift others with his remarkable journey, his story serves as a testament to the power of resilience, determination, and unwavering belief in oneself.

In Cadman Evans Yamoah, Ghana has found not just a champion, but a symbol of hope and inspiration for generations to come.

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DISCLAIMER: The Views, Comments, Opinions, Contributions and Statements made by Readers and Contributors on this platform do not necessarily represent the views or policy of Multimedia Group Limited.