WHISTLER, British Columbia (AP) -- Ghana's first Winter Olympian had a modest goal in the men's slalom: Don't finish last.
Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong, known as the "Snow Leopard," fulfilled his goal of competing in the Olympics on Saturday, completing the men's slalom with a combined time of 2:22.60 -- more than 43 seconds behind the winner but still ahead of one skier, Albania's Erjon Tola.
Greeting the crowd with his 6-year-old daughter, Ellice, in tow, a beaming Nkrumah-Acheampong said he was happy to have done the job in front of his family.
"It's great Daddy is not last on the list," the Snow Leopard said. "And that was one of my main aims."
As the West African nation's first Winter Olympian came into view during his first run, spectators chanted "Snow Leopard! Snow Leopard!" Later, he waded through adoring fans, signing autographs on ski helmets and posing for pictures in his leopard-patterned ski suit.
Fans were still yelling "Ghana! Ghana! Ghana!" more than an hour after he raced.
Nkrumah-Acheampong wasn't exactly here for a podium finish. But don't tell him it's enough just to be at the Olympics.
"It's not just about coming down, but trying to come down and beat some people," he said after his first run.
In the end, "some" turned out to be a bit of a stretch. But he did manage to beat Tola by more than 21 seconds, an eternity in competitive skiing.
And technically, at least, the Snow Leopard was in the middle of the pack: A total of 43 skiers, including superstar Bode Miller, did not finish.
The goal in hand, Nkrumah-Acheampong made a big announcement: He's ending his career on a high note.
"I'm going to find some other Ghanaian youngsters to do what I do," the 35-year-old said. "I'm finished. No more."
He already has his eyes set on building a ski slope in Ghana.
"That's what I have to do next. A slope with grass," he said. "You'll hear about us skiing in Ghana soon. ... Grow the grass and bingo -- we're there."
Nkrumah-Acheampong has made friends on the elite ski circuit, including Turin Olympics gold medalist Ted Ligety, who went to Ghana with the Snow Leopard in 2006 to promote skiing there.
"We did some grass skiing," the American said. "We took the grass skis out on a golf course, down a fairway and skied around. It was pretty fun."
Ligety said Nkrumah-Acheampong has improved greatly since his failed bid to compete in the Turin Games four years ago. "It's been cool to see him get better," he said.
Some fans traveled here just to see him compete.
"It's just brilliant for him. I'm ever so happy," said Chris Morgan, an 18-year-old medical student from Manchester, England.
For Nkrumah-Acheampong, it's been an amazing journey. He learned to ski on artificial snow at an indoor dome in Britain, then earned race points in obscure events in places such as Iran, Argentina and Bosnia.
He has pursued his Olympic goal while his wife, Sena, stayed at home in Milton Keynes, England, working as a college administrator and raising Ellice and their 1-year-old son, Jason, with the help of extended family.
"It's been hard but well worth it," Sena Nkrumah-Acheampong said after watching her husband race Saturday. "It is a dream come true."
Nkrumah-Acheampong's unlikely story has invited comparisons with the Jamaica bobsled team, whose tale was told in the movie "Cool Runnings."
The Snow Leopard's fine with that.
"I totally respect what they did," he said in January after qualifying for the Olympics.
On Saturday, Nkrumah-Acheampong was basking in the star treatment while admitting the roars at the bottom of the hill were "a bit distracting."
"I was like, 'Don't fall now!"' he said.