Christian: Today, I’m joined by Ruky Abdulai Asante. Ruky is Olympian 2008, representing Canada in track and field.
Ruky: Thank you very much.
How she got into track and field
Christian: Ruky, how did you get into track and field?
Ruky: I got into track and field when I was about nine years old. I am originally from Ghana located in West Africa and I started with track and field in Ghana. We usually do track and field and run around the building as everyone does. We were kids who just run around the school.
My school teacher knew that I have the potential, as doing well for the school, so when we had school meets, usually I’m the one that they will pick for five different events. Through that, we had inter-schools and one coach saw me run and he decided that I had potential, so he would take me and make me a champion.
One coach saw me run and he decided that I had potential, so he would take me and make me a champion.
That’s how I ended up doing track and field. So he’s the one that introduced me to track and field. His name was Paoli and he passed away 20 years ago. May his soul rest in peace.
Why she changed nationalities
Christian: And you just mentioned, you are originally from Ghana and you changed nationalities. How did this come about?
Ruky: My story is long. I was in Ghana. My dad got a job in the UN in the Netherlands and my whole family moved from Ghana to Holland. And I lived there for seven years or so, and then I got a scholarship to come to Canada to study.
When I was there, I loved it here and I made new friends. My family was here so I decided to stay and that’s how I changed my nationality. But I was quite lucky because, I had never competed for Ghana yet, so it was easy to do the transition to naturalize.
Her darkest moment
Christian: In your life as an athlete, what was your darkest moment?
Ruky: Probably my darkest moment was when I hurt my knee two weeks before the London 2012 Olympics. It was very devastating to hear the news from my doctor that I might not be able to go.
It was hard because after qualifying for the London Olympics and I was so excited like every athlete gets excited and happy to be there. Usually, in my life, I’ve had about three goals – to become an Olympian, represent Canada, and win an Olympic medal.
So going to the Olympics was going to achieve my goal basically. Because when I was going to London, I was going to do the heptathlon and Canada picked me as one of their rising star, someone who is going to win a medal. I was part of their plan, so it was very devastating that I would not be able to achieve that goal.
I will say definitely that was my darkest moment. Also because as athletes, we train for four years to let that dream come true.
In my life, I’ve had three goals – to become an Olympian, represent Canada, and win an Olympic medal.
Christian: And then it was just two weeks out of the Olympics?
Ruky: I injured my knee during my last practice actually, before flying to the London 2012 Olympics. My knee was bothering me for years, but it was better before the Olympics and then just a little movement during long jump practice, it just got worse.
The doctor met me and told me that he would not advise me to go. He said that I had qualified so it was my choice. But you have to listen to the experts.
I could have gone and hurt it more, but then he said it would affect me when I was older and I didn’t want that. So I decided to let it go.
I injured my knee during my last practice actually, before flying to the London 2012 Olympics. The doctor told me that I had qualified for the Olympics and it was my choice, but then he said it would affect me when I was older. So I decided to let it go.
Christian: How did you recover from that moment?
Ruky: My recovery was not easy at all. I spent about three days in the hospital after surgery. My husband had to take two weeks off from work to take care of me.
I also had some friends and family who came by every time to cook and take care of me. But I have one friend who really stepped in. I was really grateful to have that friend.
Her name was Priya. She would come to my house because my husband had to go back to work right after two weeks. She would wake up every morning and at nine o’clock she would be at my house taking care of me; cooking for me, helping me, and helping me to use the washroom because I couldn’t walk.
It took a long recovery, I couldn’t walk. She would help me. And then what made it hardest was because I had a two-year-old, which made it so much tougher because I couldn’t do much for her.
So my friend was there every day, helping me till I recovered. And also my church played a big role because they would cook and bring it for me.
So through these and having positive people around me also helped me emotionally to recover better, because they were always there.
Having positive people around me also helped me emotionally to recover better.
It was difficult, it took hard work, but it paid off.
Her best moment
Christian: What was your best moment?
Ruky: I would say my best moment was for sure, qualifying for the 2008 Olympics because like I said, that was part of my goals and that goal was achieved to make it to the Olympics. I remember at Canadian National Championships, that’s where it happened.
You have to make B standard and all these standards in order to qualify, but at the National, I actually didn’t make the standards there and I thought I wasn’t going. So when I went home, I was crying. I was thinking that I was not going to the Olympics.
I actually didn’t make the standards, so when I went home, I was crying. I was thinking that I was not going to the Olympics.
Then I got a phone call saying I have been chosen to go to join the team because I was one of the rising stars. I was among the rising stars and that is the reason why they picked me to be part of the Olympics. It was the best moment because I had three goals and my goals had been accomplished.
Christian: What did you learn from that moment? How has it influenced your life?
Ruky: I’ve learned from that if you work hard in life, believe in your dreams and your goals, you can achieve anything you set your mind to. I learned a lot from that, and nowadays I make sure that I believe in anything I do.
I make sure that I believe in anything I do.
If I plan to do something, I make sure I believe in it and make sure that I work hard on it because if you don’t work hard on it, it is definitely not going to happen.
This attitude has been part of me since my track and field career and it’s still happening. I am still using that, that I learned from.
Her advice to a younger Ruky Abdulai Asante
Christian: If you could travel back in time, 10, 15, 20 years, what advice would you give a younger?
Ruky: The advice I will give to the younger Ruky is, number one, to make sure you assess your goals. What I meant by that is putting together a plan and making sure that those plans are executed very well. Then it is reevaluating those goals and improving in them.
So assessing your goals is very important. The number two thing that I will advise the younger generation is taking responsibility for your action, whether it’s good or bad. As athletes and not only athletes, in life, sometimes we tend to give excuses about everything.
Even at practice, if something goes wrong, we give excuses. We say that this is the reason why, and that’s the reason why. So we just have to take responsibility for our actions, whether good or bad.
And lastly, I will say being courageous is very important in everything we do in life. We always have millions of reasons not to do something, but we need to think of the one reason to do it and that will move us forward.
We always have millions of reasons not to do something, but we need to think of the one reason to do it and that will move us forward.
So these things will help you to become successful for sure. So that would be my advice.
Her success habits
Christian: What are the habits that make you a successful athlete and person?
Ruky: For me personally, to become a successful athlete or person, you need to be a leader. A leader is very important. When I say leader because a perfect leader has the ability to always bring people together and show others what it takes to become successful. So it’s very important to be a leader.
To become a successful athlete or person, you need to be a leader.
The other thing to become successful is you need to work hard. I’m sure you know, as athletes, you have to work hard. It is very important. Your hard work will improve your skills, your performance, and everything you do.
Without hard work, your success is really at stake. For me, what made me become successful is that I’m always humble. If you ask all my friends or all my teammates, I’m always humble.
I humble myself a lot during practice and during competition. When I go there, I’m not out there, showing off or whatever. I’m just humble. I focus on what I have to do or to be to win or to do better at practice because practice makes you perfect. So I’m always humble around others.
I focus on what I have to do or to be to win or to do better at practice because practice makes you perfect.
You always have to be at practice. Like I said before, excuses, excuses. Sometimes we give excuses not to be there at practice, but you have to try your best to be at practice all the time. So that is very important.
And lastly, show respect to others. I always show respect to others. First, you show respect to yourself and then others. So that is what made me become successful. That’s my personal journey.
Are leadership qualities innate or can they be developed
Christian: I’d like to touch on – you mentioned leader and leadership qualities. Do you think leadership qualities are something that is innate or is it something that can be developed?
Ruky: For me personally, I believe not everyone is born as a leader or has the talent to be a leader. No, you work at it to become a leader. Always humbling yourself; doing that and being noticed.
When I say being noticed, let’s use other sports like soccer. When people are going to the stadium to watch soccer, they have one particular person that they can’t wait to watch. You stand out.
So that person is very easy to become a leader. People see you differently, and what made that person special – the hard work and humbling yourself. You work at it. It doesn’t just come easily. So personally, that’s what I think though.
Her morning routine
Christian: Do you have a morning routine?
Ruky: When I was competing, I had a morning routine. Every day when I was doing track and field, I would wake up in the morning at eight o’clock. I make sure that I eat breakfast because you need to eat early before practice. Do you know what happens if you just eat before practice? You throw up.
For me, it was wake up, eat, and then practice. Sometimes I would make sure I prepare myself a lunch because I’m always away the whole day. I leave in the morning. I didn’t come home till the evening time.
I made sure I get up, eat breakfast, get my lunch ready, and then I’m off. So every morning that routine is very important. I say that because I used to train also two to three times a day when I switched to heptathlon, which was even worse.
I have to make sure I prepare myself in the morning really well. So I did have a routine and that was the routine. Another thing that I did was when I wake up, I put my music on. First, I pray, I put on my gospel music and I dance in my room before I step out.
It just boosts my joy. I’m always happy when I listen to my gospel and pray before I step out of the door, I’m not angry when I go out and I’m always filled with joy. So that was my routine.
First, I pray, I put on my gospel music and I dance in my room before I step out. It just boosts my joy.
Christian: That’s really cool. How long did you listen to it in order to get in a good mood?
Ruky: I spent at least 30 to 40 minutes just listening, praying, and just asking God to fill me with joy when I step out there and to be a light to others and it always happened.
If you ask anybody about me, they will tell you I’m always a happy person, I’m positive around people and that’s who I am, I think.
How to prepare for important moments
Christian: How do you prepare yourself for important moments?
Ruky: Every night, before I was practicing, I usually meditated for 20 mins and visualize the long jump runway before I go to bed.
I close my eyes and meditate like I’m on the runway doing the same exact thing as that thing that I would do when I’m on the field or I’m on the runway.
So I did just lie down and then I just meditate 20 minutes going, jumping, running, thinking about what I have to do and I do this 20 minutes before I go to bed. That’s what I usually do.
I did just lie down and then I just meditate for 20 minutes going, jumping, running, visualizing the long jump runway, and thinking about what I have to do and I do this 20 minutes before I go to bed.
But if I have competition, I do that for 30 minutes because once I get to the field, my brain has already gone through that routine and my body has gone through that routine by meditating. So I just go there and I do what I have to do and it always comes out with better results.
Actually, I also eat pasta the night before the competition. I make sure I eat pasta because it gives me energy the next day and so, yes, that was one of the routines and the preparation that I did.
How to overcome setbacks
Christian: How do you overcome setbacks?
Ruky: If things don’t go well for me, I usually pray over it. Then I think of what I did wrong to change that situation. So sometimes talking to my family member back home in Ghana. I call my dad when I’m feeling down and he always encourages me in what to do through all my struggles.
So, that’s how I overcome it by just calling my family members, talking to my dad, and getting some advice. He always boosts my happiness back because sometimes it’s tough. But without family around, sometimes it’s harder, so that’s what actually helped me a lot.
Her role model
Christian: Who’s your role model and why?
Ruky: I do have a lot of role models because they have all played a huge part in my life. But I would say if I were to pick one, I would probably pick the person who made me Ruky Abdulai the Olympian.
That’s the person who I said is Paoli. This man had trained a girl for five years and nobody had beaten her. Her name was Gifty. We used to train with her and I beat her, so he just walks up to me and he actually brought the girl.
He asked me if I know the girl. He told me that he had trained her for five years and nobody had beaten her. He asked that since I had beat her that day if I would give him the opportunity to train me because he saw the light in me. He said that I had a big potential.
I told him that I had no idea as I was just doing it for fun at that time. I told him that I would talk to my parents and see if they would allow me to travel all the way from where we living across the sports stadium to train.
My parents agreed, so he started training me till I moved to Holland and I was in Holland when he passed away. So he had made me the person that I am today.
And then he gave my coaches at SFU, Simon Fraser University, the opportunity to train me and made me even better. So he’s the one that set the foundation for them and so he will probably be the person that I will pick as my role model. He would definitely be the one.
Christian: He would be glad to hear it.
The best advice she has received
Christian: What is the best advice you received and who gave it to you?
Ruky: I used to give up a lot when I was competing and I wasn’t doing well, or I get angry at practice when I make mistakes. But the person that I will actually say is Brit Townsend, my coach at Simon Fraser University.
She gave me an advice. One time she sat me down and told me that if I keep on getting angry about making mistakes or giving up in life, that would be part of me my whole life. She said that even if my track and field career was over, it would be something that would be a part of me and I would not want that.
One time she sat me down and told me that if I keep on getting angry about making mistakes or giving up in life, that would be part of me my whole life.
So when she said that to me, I took that advice and I changed my mindset and since then, my performances were even better. When I make mistake, I go back, sit down, think about what made me make that mistake.
That’s where I learned my humbleness from. So this is the advice that I took from her and it has actually been part of me till now.
A typical training day in the life of an Olympic long jumper
Christian: Back in the days, how did a typical training day look like?
Ruky: For long jump practice, I wake up in the morning, get ready, and go to practice. I used to train six times a week. And when I was doing the long jump, it was just like once a day.
I would go to practice, warm-up, stretch, do some drills and then do some sprints and then the main workout starts. Sometimes it will be just sprints workout; sometimes it will be just drills, like a long jump drills workout for like an hour.
The whole workout would take an hour and a half or two, but like just on that drill, it would take like an hour. And then after that, sometimes I’ll just go to the gym and do some weights. And so that was probably one of the routines.
For long jump, to me, it came easy and was actually too boring for me because even in Holland, my coaches would put me in so many different events.
When I came to heptathlon, I train six times a week, but two to three times a day. So I would train in the morning, like maybe do some sprint workout in the afternoon. I’ll go do javelin because in heptathlon we have seven events.
I had to break it all in different section. You can do it close to each other. So I would do one practice in the morning, like sprints, take a break, three hours. I’ll stay at the same location for the whole day. And then I will do just maybe javelin practice in the afternoon.
Then in the evening, I would do another event, maybe shot put before I go home. I was practicing for the heptathlon for the London Olympics, so I did this for four years. That’s why it was so devastating when I didn’t get the opportunity to compete.
Her transition from long jump into the heptathlon
Christian: You started out with long jump and then later transitioned into heptathlon. Would you think that this is an easy transition because ultimately you have to learn six new disciplines?
Ruky: No, it wasn’t a hard transition because most of the events in heptathlon, I have done those. I have done hundred meter hurdles; the long jump was my specialty. I’ve done high jump. When I was competing for university, I did the high jump.
I did 200, 800, I did some 800 practices, so it wasn’t hard. My body was already ready for it. The only event that I struggled with was shot put. It was my weakest, I would say because I don’t have the body for that.
But in the heptathlon, everyone has their bad events. The good ones that you think you will be better you work hard at those. You still work hard at the other ones. So it wasn’t hard to transition.
Yes, it was very hard because it was just long jump and like I said, it was kind of boring for me because my whole life I’ve been doing a lot. And so that’s why I decided that I want to try the heptathlon. And it was a very easy transition. It wasn’t tough.
Christian: I think also Jackie Joyner-Kersee, she was the successful long jumper and a heptathlete, right?
Ruky: Yes, she was.
What’s going on in Ruky Abdulai’s life at this moment in time
Christian: What’s going on in Ruky’s life at this moment in time?
Ruky: At this moment, Ruky has three kids. The oldest is seven, the middle one is four and then the last one is one year. So my life is busy, but you know what? I’m giving back to my community, so what I do is I’m still training other young youth.
I will say my life is busy with three kids, but I’m trying to start something on my own, which is training the youth and giving back what I have achieved and what I have done. I’m trying to teach them to walk the same path.
I started my own speaking engagement business, so that was going well until this Coronavirus came. So, let’s hope it goes away soon and we can come back to our normal life.
Her interview nomination
Christian: Do you want to nominate someone to be interviewed?
Ruky: You know I’ve been thinking about who I can nominate. I want to nominate one of the young athletes that I went to the Olympics with. Her name is Ohenewa Akuffo. She was a wrestler and I want to nominate her. I will give you more information about her and then you can contact her.
Christian: That’s really cool. Thanks.
Where can you find Ruky Abdulai Asante
Christian: Where can people find you?
Ruky: People can find me on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram. You can send me a message.
Ruky Abdulai Asante’s social profiles
Christian: Ruky, thanks a lot for your time.
Ruky: It’s a pleasure. Thanks for inviting me.