Ivory Coast won two silver medals at the recent World Championships in Athletics in London, where sprinter Marie-Josée Ta Lou made her country proud in the women’s 100-meters and 200-meters finals.
In both races, though, there was also heartbreak for the 28-year-old Ta Lou, who came very close to being crowned world champion.
In the 100-meters, she equaled her personal best of 10.86 seconds, set at last year’s Rio Olympics in Brazil, but lost the gold to American Tori Bowie, who lunged at the finish line.
After the race, Ta Lou said she didn’t even expect to be among the medalists.
Five days after the women’s 100-meters final in London, Ta Lou raced again in the 200-meters final. Again, she turned in a great performance, but lost a close race.
Ta Lou set an Ivory Coast national record of 22.08 seconds, but the gold went to Dutch athlete Dafne Schippers, who successfully defended her world title with a time of 22.05 seconds.
Schippers and Ta Lou hugged after the exciting race, a sign of mutual respect between two world class competitors.
Marie-Josée Ta Lou grew up in a suburb of Abidjan, the commercial capital of Ivory Coast. Her first love was soccer, not athletics, and she was persuaded to switch sports by an older brother.
Ivory Coast also has another top international sprinter, Murielle Ahouré, the reigning African champion in the women’s 100-meters. The 29-year-old Ahouré finished just outside the medals in London, coming in fourth in the 100-meters final.
If they can stay healthy, we could see Murielle Ahouré and Marie-Josée Ta Lou at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, where they would be running for only the second Olympic track medal in Ivory Coast history.
Gabriel Tiacoh, who died of viral meningitis in 1992 at the age of 29, won his nation’s first Olympic medal, a silver, in the 400-meters at the 1984 Los Angeles Games.