From Track to Theatre: Rose Amankwaah’s Journey from Africa’s Fastest Woman to London’s Longest-Serving Nurse

by Joseph Omoniyi
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Rose Amankwaah, once celebrated as the fastest woman in Africa, is set to retire this month after nearly 50 years of exemplary service at London’s Central Middlesex Hospital. At 72, Amankwaah reflects on her remarkable dual legacy as both an elite athlete and a dedicated nurse, bridging two worlds with an unwavering commitment to excellence.

Amankwaah, born Rose Asiedua in Kumasi, Ghana, rose to fame in the early 1970s, capturing hearts and medals on international tracks. Her athletic prowess was first noticed in school competitions, leading her to become a national sensation. Under the guidance of her coach, Mr. Lawson, she transitioned from long jump to sprints, eventually representing Ghana at the All Africa Games in Nigeria and the Afro-Latin American Games in Mexico, where she won multiple medals.

“I was the second-fastest woman in Africa,” Amankwaah told BBC Sport Africa. “I took silver in the 100m at the All Africa Games in Nigeria [in 1973], won gold in Mexico, and a Commonwealth Games bronze [relay] medal in New Zealand in 1974.”

Despite her athletic achievements, Amankwaah’s life took a dramatic turn when she moved to London in 1974, inspired by a neighbor to pursue a career in nursing. She seamlessly transitioned from the track to the hospital, blending her passion for athletics with her new calling. Even as she trained alongside renowned athletes like Linford Christie, her commitment to nursing never wavered.

However, Amankwaah’s Olympic dreams were dashed when African nations boycotted the 1976 Montreal Games. Undeterred, she channeled her energy into her nursing career, rising through the ranks to become a theatre matron. Her dedication earned her the prestigious Silver Medal Award, a testament to her outstanding service at Central Middlesex Hospital.

“I’ll miss coming into work. I love my job,” Amankwaah said, reflecting on her impending retirement. “But I know what I’ll do. I’ll look after my grandchildren and maybe have a little holiday, a rest. Not getting up at five or six o’clock in the morning!”

Amankwaah’s legacy extends beyond her professional achievements. Her son, Kevin, recently retired from professional football, and her grandchildren continue to excel in various sports. As she prepares for retirement, Amankwaah looks forward to spending time with her family and watching the sports she loves, especially the upcoming Olympic Games in France.

Colleagues like Linda Lonergan and Jayanthy John celebrate Amankwaah not only for her professional excellence but also for her mentorship and positive influence. “She’s like a mum to everyone. We’re really privileged to work under her,” John remarked.

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