African Winter Olympian Akwasi Frimpong is the hero of a graphic novel in campaign from sports brand On

Olympics push from Hungry Man's Richard Bullock follows the story of the Dutch Ghanaian skeleton champ

Published On
Jan 21, 2022

Editor's Pick

Ahead of next month's Winter Olympics in Beijing, Swiss running brand On is out with a beautifully crafted short film telling the story of Dutch Ghanaian athlete Akwasi Frimpong, depicted as the hero of a graphic novel.

The first-ever athlete from an African country to win an elite race in a skeleton (extreme tobogganing) event in 2018, Frimpong now won't be competing in Beijing due to a COVID-19 diagnosis in December. Nevertheless, the ten-minute film about his journey, seen in full below, is an evergreen inspirational tale.

Richard Bullock of Hungry Man both wrote and directed the spot, which was developed over a period of six months and filmed across various locations in Europe and Africa. It brings the pages of a graphic novel to life, with Frimpong first presented as an Olympian hero in the form of a comic book titled "Black Ice‘," which school children in Africa read on a bus. 

The film intercuts live-action with comic strip graphics from illustrator Brett McManus that recall the black-and-white style of the original "Phantom" comics. It tells the story of Frimpong's journey to becoming an Olympian. We move from his childhood in Ghana, when he pretended to run from lions, to his being spotted as a teenage athlete by a former Olympian after moving to the Netherlands. He becomes a Dutch sprint champion, and then, after an injury, goes to study at a college in Utah, where he discovers winter sports. Eventually, he becomes the first Black male skeleton athlete in Winter Olympic history in 2018. In the final part of the film, we see Frimpong zipping on his skeleton suit and helmet like a superhero, as he prepares to represent Ghana.

“My philosophy as a writer and director particularly in the field of sports brands has been to avoid portraying the athletes as superheroes," said Bullock in a statement. "I’ve done a lot of work grounding athletes as real people. But Akwasi’s story lent itself so directly to the notion of a superhero I eventually gave in and went for it. The key difference between him and superheroes is he is actually real. His super power is resilience.”

Bullock added that instead of creating a script or storyboard, he conceived the tale in the form of a graphic novel. He then handed it off to illustrator Dean Mortensen to fully realize the graphic novel format, which then became a character in the film animated by McManus. The idea "forced the filmmakers to think differently about all aspects of the production. 'It’s uncomfortable and new for all of us,' was the response. Probably what Akwasi felt like the first time he slid head-first down an ice run at 90 miles per hour.”

It's the second powerful piece of branded content for On, which created a film about blind Paralympian 100m athlete David Brown ahead of the Paralympic Games last year.





Jan 21, 2022
Client :
Production Company :
Hungry Man
Starring :
Akwasi Frimpong
Executive Producer :
Feliciano Robayna
Producer :
Gessica Giulini
Production Company :
Hungry Man
Director :
Richard Bullock
Executive Producer :
Matt Buels
Producer :
Hannah Stone
Producer :
Jack Beardsley
Illustration :
Dean Mortensen
Animation :
Brett McManus
Theo Tennant
Devin Toselli
Production Company :
Production Company :
Creative Creatures
Post Production :
Lead Editor :
Andrew Holmes
Creative Producer :
Coralie Tapper
Executive Producer :
Will Alexander
Credits Motion Graphics :
Maud Chapuis
Edit Assist :
Daniel Page
Colorist :
Fergus Rotherham
Music & Sound :
Heckler Sound
Rerecording Mixer :
Dave Robertson
Composer :
Dustin Lau
Executive Producer :
Bonnie Law
PR :
Elliott Stares
PR :
Jessica Hartley

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Project Type