Glasgow 2014: British Army helps Ghanaian Nartey's Olympic dream

Emmanuel Nartey
Nartey competed at Manchester 2002, the last time judo was a Commonwealth Games event

Ghanaian Commonwealth Games medal hope Emmanuel Nartey says his role in the British Army helped him achieve his dream of becoming an Olympic athlete.

Nartey, who trains at the University of Bath, became the first judoka to represent his country at an Olympics when he competed at London 2012.

"It's safe to say if it wasn't for the British Army I probably wouldn't be an Olympian," Nartey, 31, told BBC Sport.

"They release me to train full-time and they opened the door of opportunity."

The First Royal Tank Regiment trooper says that going to the Olympics in 2012 changed his life "completely".

"It's an honour," he added. "It's one of my greatest achievements because I'm the first to do it and I certainly hope not the last."

Nartey on growing up in Ghana:
"I came from a poor family and was kind of a street boy but I never saw judo as a way out. I actually saw education as the way out, although judo is the stepping-stone to much greater and better things."

The former BBC cleaner, who took up the sport at the age of nine, says his main aim is to win gold at Rio in 2014.

"I think that for us , our main goal is the Olympic games," he said. "But I still want to win the Commonwealth Games, I still want to win the title.

"But also, at the back of my mind, I know my ultimate goal is actually Rio 2016 and performing there."

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Emmanuel Nartey – Throw after throw

Nartey was knocked out in the opening round of the under-73kg event at London 2012 by current European champion Dex Elmont.

But he can draw confidence from victory the following year against Russian Olympic champion Mansur Isaev to win bronze at the Pan-American Open in Argentina.

Nartey now hopes to use his experience to inspire youngsters in his native country.

"If you compete for Great Britain you're just one out of thousands - but when I fight for Ghana, history will remember me," he said.

"I give hope to the upcoming generation. The opportunities are there now for others."

As well as sporting success, Nartey is about to begin studying for a PhD in Economics at the University of West of England.

Commonwealth and British Army team-mates
Nartey's fellow Ghanaian Commonwealth Games judoka Victor Ahiavor is a lance corporal in the First Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.

"I came from a poor family and was kind of a street boy," he explained. "I had to sell stuff on the street to make money but I never saw judo as a way out. I actually saw education as the way out although judo is the stepping-stone to much greater and better things.

"I sometimes train for six hours a day and I'm always dieting. You sacrifice a part of your life to achieve your dreams. You have to delay the next chapter of your life in order to fulfil your ambitions."

And his hard work appears to be paying off, as in May he was one of several athletes to receive an accolade at the Sports Writers' Association of Ghana Personality of the Year Awards.

"I never thought I'd win something like that," he said. "The main sport there is football so when I got the message, I was just thinking 'wow'. But it tells you how far judo has come."

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