With Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare not on the start-list for tonight’s 100 metres at the Rome leg of the Diamond League, we profile another African Athlete who will be racing the world’s best tonight – Cote d’Ivoire’s Murielle Ahouré, the 2013 World Championship Silver Medallist in the 100 and 200 metres!
In the 20-year history of the World Championships in Athletics until 2013, Cote d’Ivoire had not won a single medal, but then they never had an athlete like Murielle Ahouré. So who is this African Sprint Queen, who along with Blessing is burning up tracks all over the world, and paving the way for a revival of Sprinting in West Africa?
Ahouré has an interesting back story – despite being born in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire in 1987, her family moved to France when she was just two, and lived in various countries before settling in the US, where she finally took up sprinting at the age of 15. Her progression in the sport has been phenomenal – she has been running National Records in the 100 metres since 2009, and has lowered that record almost every single year since then, right down to 10.91s last year. Similarly, she also holds the Ivorian 200 metres record at 22.24s, and she is in a head-on race with Okagbare to be the first to break Mary Onyali’s 18 year-old African Record (22.07s)! Ahouré has a bullet start, and her favourite event is reportedly the 60 metres, where she set an African Record of 6.99s last year, making her the 7th fastest woman in history over the distance!
After finishing 7th and 6th in the 100 & 200 metres respectively at the London 2012 Olympics (11.00s & 22.57s), she followed that up in 2013 with Silver medals in both the 100 & 200 metres in Moscow (10.93s & 22.32s) – the first medals ever World Championship medals for Cote d’Ivoire! She also has World Indoor Silver Medals in the 60 metres in 2012 and 2014, in 7.04s and 7.01s respectively! The athlete who switches effortlessly between her native French and English in a distinctive American accent, has spoken glowingly about her pride, along with Blessing, of representing a new era of sprinting in West Africa – Murielle on the Francophone side, Blessing on the Anglophone side!
Such is her popularity in her native Cote d’Ivoire, that she has even been labelled the “female Drogba”, and has had her whole nation simply transfixed on her performances, particularly during the London 2012 Olympic Games and the 2013 World Championships in Moscow. Even their football stars such as Drogba have spoken profusely about how excited they have been to watch her race and win medals for their country! Aside from the Elephants, she is undoubtedly the most famous sportsperson that her nation has produced in a generation.
Cote d’Ivoire’s only medal at the Olympics, came in 1984, when their most famous quarter-miler, Gabriel Tiacoh, won an incredible Silver medal for his nation. He tragically passed away in 1992 to viral meningitis, and now there is an annual Track meet in Abidjan held in his honour, which Ahouré attended earlier this year – who would bet against her winning Cote d’Ivoire’s next Olympic medal at Rio 2016?
Murielle Ahouré will compete in the 100 metres against Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce at the Rome Diamond League TODAY at 8.30pm in Nigeria (7.30pm in Cote d’Ivoire).
SuperSport 5 (DSTV 205) will show the whole meet LIVE TONIGHT from 7 – 9pm Nigerian Time (6 – 8pm Ivorien Time).
2014 IAAF Diamond League calendar
Doha, QAT – 9 May
Shanghai, CHN – 18 May
Eugene, USA – 31 May
Rome, ITA – 5 Jun
Oslo, NOR – 11 Jun
New York, USA – 14 Jun
Lausanne, SUI – 3 Jul
Paris, FRA – 5 Jul
Glasgow, GBR – 11-12 Jul
Monaco, MON – 18 Jul
Stockholm, SWE – 21 Aug
Birmingham, GBR – 24 Aug
Zurich, SUI – 28 Aug
Brussels, BEL – 5 Sep