Funding African Sports: “We Need New Laws Passed, So That Athletes Can Live off Their Sports,” Says Ivorian Gold Medalist Cheick Sallah Cisse
Cheick Sallah Cisse and Ruth Christelle Gbagbi left Rio as Olympic medalists and arrived home to a jubilant nation that rewarded them with new houses.
In addition to the houses whose details were not revealed, a cash price of US$ 85,000 and US$ 51,000 was awarded to the athletes respectively. Honored at the presidential palace in Abidjan, the athletes took photos with President Alassande Ouattara and his wife Dominique Ouattara while they posed with the athletes’ medals.
The Ivorian medalists elated their country when they won medals in taekwondo, a sport more popular in Asia than in Africa. Cisse won the men’s under 80 kilograms taekwondo fight with a last second kick, to become the country’s first gold medalist while Gbagbi, won bronze in the women’s under 67 kilograms taekwondo and is the first Ivorian woman to win an Olympic medal.
Marie-Josée Ta Lou and Ben Meite were honored as well and took home 20 million and 10 million CFA francs (approx. US$ 35,000 and US$ 18,000) respectively. Ta Lou finished fourth in the women’s 100 meters, and 200 meters while Meite came sixth in the men’s 100 meters.
Ouattara did not let the efforts of the West African nation’s 12 athletes and their coaching staff and officials go unnoticed. Funds summing up to 380 million CFA francs (approx. US$ 66,000) were awarded to the team.
However, the Ivorian athletes put in an urgent request for stable funds and career facilitation.[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””] “We were supported. The Government did what it could, but we need new laws passed so that athletes can live off their sports,”[/perfectpullquote]
It has been 32 years since Ivory Coast won an Olympic medal. Gabriel Tiacoh (February 09, 1963 – April 2, 1992) was the last victorious Ivorian. Tiacoh competed in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles and took home a silver medal in the men’s 400m.
Meanwhile, in another West African scene, Ghana has been inspired to dedicate time to the sport by the Ivorian Rio medalists. Norbert Amefu, the Chairman of Greater Accra Taekwondo, is determined to make an entrance at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
According to Amefu, Ghana took up Taekwondo before Ivory Coast but did not progress due to poor management and infrastructure. The Ghanaian attributed the Ivorian’s success to the better organization.
He said, “Look at how Taekwondo is progressing in Côte d’ voire, though we started the sport before them. This is because they have a good management team. Our players fight without modern techniques and skills, which is very worrying.”
The Ghanaian emphasized on his ambition to help the sport grow to the highest level in the country. Amefu who organized the third edition of the GAT Open said with deep conviction, “I will do all it takes for us to qualify for the next Olympics. I have taken it upon myself to develop the senior taekwondo practitioners as well.”
On the international scene, the President of World Taekwondo Federation, Choue Chung-won praised the positive development of the sport after 16 years at the Olympics.
He said, “the taekwondo competition here in Rio has been a festival of fighting delivered to the highest technical standard.” Chung-won also mentioned that “we have witnessed some major upsets, some dramatic, last-second victories – even last half-second victories – and some first-time Olympic medalists.”
Featured Photo: Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara (R) and his wife Dominique Ouattara pose with the Ivorian Rio Olympics medalists (Getty Images)