Ivory Coast president Alassane Ouattara held a colourful reception for Africa’s new sprint queen Marie-Josée Ta Lou, who won silver in the women’s 100 and 200 metres at the 2017 IAAF World Championships in London last month.
The ceremony, which took place at the presidential palace, was attended by several ministers and traditional rulers in a show meant to inspire the country’s youth to follow in the footsteps of the 28-year-old champion, according to Ouattara.
“Marie-Josée is a pride to Ivory Coast and Africa. We want our young men and women to aspire to become like her. She raised our flag very high at the world stage and now is time to honour her for the good work,” President Ouattara said.
Ta Lou sealed a second place finish in the 100 metres with a time of 10.86 seconds behind gold medalist Tori Bowie of the USA (10.85s) and ahead of bronze winner Dafne Schippers from the Netherlands (10.96s).
In the 200 metres, the graduate of medical sciences claimed a 22.08 finish (a national record) behind defending champion Dafne Schippers (22.05) and ahead of Shaunae Miller-Uibo of Bahamas (22.15).
Ta Lou and his Ivorian coach Anthony Koffi were distinguished as Commander in the Order of Ivorian Sports Merit and handed fat cheques.
She takes home 40 million franc CFA ($73,000) while her coach pockets half of that amount.
A special state budget will be set aside for preparations and participations for her future competitions, Ouattara announced at the end of the reception.
“I feel very happy today because the entire nation is celebrating my achievement. This is as a result of hard work and dedication. Nothing good comes easy. I am currently aiming at greater heights in future competitions and I believe that will soon happen,” she said.
Ta Lou kicked off her career in 2007 at the African Junior Championships in Burkina Faso where she emerged 13th in the 100 metres women race.
She has been to four editions of the African Championships, in 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016. And after a modest outing at the All African Games in 2011 she won gold in both the 100 and 200 metres in the 2015 edition held in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo.
At the Olympic Games in Rio, Brazil in 2016 she bowed out with a fourth position for both categories.