Hugues Fabrice Zango is a triple jump and long jump specialist who recently returned from the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan with a bronze medal in triple jump.
In January of 2021, the 28-year-old of Burkina Faso claimed the world indoor record in triple jump with a distance of 18.07 metres (59 ft 3+1⁄4 in), becoming also the first African to hold a world record in a jumping event.
That achievement buoyed his confidence ahead of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo but proved not enough as he fell short of his personal objectives for the Games, he says.
“After that indoor competition in France, I felt so strong and confident that I was going to do something great in Tokyo. It was the first time I was having such an obstinate feeling for a competition. However, I got bronze eventually. It’s not bad considering the challenges from the Covid-19, but deep down in me I knew I could have done better. I had the resources to pull it off,” Zango tells ACLsports.
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Like many other athletes, Zango had his share of problems related to the pandemic that distabilised his preparations for the Games. Travel restrictions and dwindling financial assistance forced him to modify his plans, he says.
“I was supposed to have full preparations in Europe but due to the Covid 19 issues I was constrained to minimum training for months in Burkina Faso where the facilities are not very ideal. The places I had wanted to visit as part of my groundwork were in confinement, meaning I had to make do with what was available.
“Secondly, sponsorship dried up, even government assistance was drastically slashed as the authorities had other urgent priorities such as the fight against the Covid. However, I realised there was nothing much I could change other than structural adjustments, which sustained me until the competitions. I did travel later but it was not enough according to our initial plan,” he says.
On August 5, 2021, Zango won Burkina Faso’s first Olympic medal, a bronze, in the men’s triple jump with a distance of 17.47 metres, to become a national hero and a household name in the West African country where football remains the king of sports. However, he believes his recent achievement would boost interest for track and field disciplines in the country.
“When I returned home I was told the whole nation was watching and praying for me. It shows that they love what I was doing and that could trigger interest among young people to get involved. If track and field could get the same attention and budget like football I believe we would get more medals. As for me, I am not settling with bronze. I hope to clinch gold next time like I did in Asaba (Nigeria) during the 2018 African Championships.”