Words Atak Ngor
Images Wayne ye
Vandy Kanneh is a 19-year-old athlete living in Hobart. He was born in war-torn Liberia before moving to the neighbouring country of Ghana, West Africa, at the age of one.
Living in a refugee camp was hard, Vandy recalls; “everyone is for themselves”. A camp in Guinea became Vandy’s home for five years. Then something changed that would determine the rest of his life, he was accepted to come to Australia.
“I thought at first I was going to America,” he says, but he was still happy with the result of coming to Australia. Though quite humble, Vandy has a powerful drive to achieve greatness, both as a professional sprinter and outside the athletic track. Vandy started running competitively at a young age, mainly through Little Athletics – a community organisation in Australia.
“I want to go to the 2018 Commonwealth Games,” he says. “That’s my dream. I have two years to train.” I can see that he is working and training hard. Vandy is one of those people who seems very focused, which is interesting to me because not many teenagers of his age have such a strong drive to achieve greatness.
I ask him if he remembers much of his earlier years in Africa, “Not really”.
“I remember I ran a lot in the refugee camp. I left my father … that’s the hardest thing,” he recalls after a moment of silence.
I begin to understand what’s behind this man, and why what he’s doing is not a choice but a necessity. There is a reason people who move from one country to another with almost nothing may have greater chances of succeeding. It comes down to a few simple reasons; drive, motivation, and determination. “The main reason I do what I do is for my mother,” Vandy says. His mother has been there for him and now all he wants to do is to make her proud.
Vandy will continue training for the 2018 Commonwealth Games, and is an ambassador for Skins (an Australian company that designs and manufactures underwear for professional athletes and sports enthusiasts). He is also sponsored by them and says this contributes greatly towards his improvement. Vandy no doubt has a great future ahead – and I feel he deserves nothing but the best.