2. Marie-Josée Ta Lou
Ivoirian sprinter Marie-Josée Ta Lou wanted to quit the sport after failing to finish on the podium at the Tokyo Olympics last year, her second time at the Olympics without a medal to show for all her efforts. After subsequent 4th place finishes in the 100m in Rio and Tokyo respectively, and then 4th and 5th positions in the 200m, she felt it was time to take a bow from the sport she loves so much.
Fortunately, she had a great support system that gave her the much needed push and support to go on, and so even though 2022 was a bumpy ride for the petite sprinter, she remained resolute till the end and snatched an African Record (AR) in the process. That is why Ta Lou, who is one of Africa’s most consistent athletes for nearly a decade, occupies our No.2 spot.
The 34-year-old moved to the US last November and switched coaches. She loved her new environment and adapted pretty quickly. However, she revealed that she’s had to manage a nagging shoulder injury all season, which hampered her performance. She raced in six competitions before the World Championships and won the sprint double at the Occidental Invitational where she clocked 11.07s and 22.68s respectively.
She moved on to the Wanda Diamond League where she placed 6th at the Prefontaine Classic (11.07s), 2nd in Rabat (11.04s), 3rd in Paris (11.01s) and 5th in Rome in the 200m (22.77s). Ta Lou is no stranger to the World Championships, having won double Silver in 2017 and a Bronze medal in Doha in 2019. And so she dominated her heat in Oregon where she returned a time of 10.92s, improving to an SB of 10.87s in the semis where she settled for 2nd behind Elaine Thompson-Herah.
The African Games Champion would have hoped for a better outcome in the final where she placed 7th; nevertheless she was happy to make the final, saying afterwards, “I am a fighter, so I just do what I have to do to make the final.”
Ta Lou had no inkling that the best was yet to come as she resumed competition nearly one month later. Her first outing was at the Kamila Skolimowska Memorial where she clocked 11.00s in 3rd place. Three days later, as a member of a star-studded cast at the Herculis Meeting in Monaco, Ta Lou blazed to a new African Record of 10.72s to finish 3rd as World Champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce blasted to a superb 10.62s for the win, with Shericka Jackson following in 10.71s.
— Herculis (@MeetingHerculis) August 10, 2022
Ta Lou’s new AR puts her on joint seventh with Sha’Carri Richardson on the women’s 100m all-time list, giving her something to savour until next season. Meanwhile, she’s already excited at the prospects for African sprinting and the new generation of sprinters emerging from the continent:
“They are coming”, she says, “because I see them in my country and other countries in Africa. In three or four years to come, you will see many African athletes winning medals because they’re really great and talented. This makes my heart feel good because after us, there are others coming.”