World’s fastest woman Marie-Josse Ta Lou believes Kenyan athletes can ride on the exploits of world 400m hurdles record holder, the late Nicholas Bett to venture into sprints and dominate just as they have in middle and long distance races.
Ta Lou, who was in Mombasa to grace the 15th edition of the Sports Personality of the Year Awards (SOYA) on Friday, says that self belief is all it takes to become an authority in the sprints.
Narrating how she watched as the late Bett ran from the eighth lane to clinch gold at the 2015 World Championships, in Beijing, China, Ta Lou says it was a moment of pride for all Africans and a chance for budding athletes to realise that anything is achievable in athletics despite where one comes from.
“Kenyans and Africans at large have the talent and enough facilities at their disposal to venture into sprints and be just as successful. When I started, I did not think I could compete with the world’s best but I set targets for myself and as I kept hitting them. My self belief kept growing and now, I know I can achieve anything,” she says.
The 30-year-old says in her travels, since switching from football at a young age to 100m and 200m races, she has established that most African countries have similar facilities to what the Americans and Jamaicans have and what lacks is self belief.
“We have the weather, the terrain and a better diet than others and that is what one needs to become a sprinter. That is why I am mostly doing my training in Ivory Coast and only go on short training camps in France and Italy,” adds the Ivorian.
Ta Lou, who started her senior career in Nairobi at the 2010 Africa Championships when she was 22, says the hardest part for her was breaking the sub-11seconds in 100m but when she finally achieved it, she believed she could be the best in the world.
“It takes a lot of hard work and commitment to be the best in the world but once you set your mind to it, the sky becomes the limit. I have set my mind at lowering my personal best in 100m which is at 10:85,” says Ta Lou.
She goes on: “I am in the best form right now and even as I continue with my training here in Mombasa, I am hopeful I will replicate what I have done in training when it comes to competitions this year.”
In future, Ta Lou sees herself in sports management as she is not ready to go back to her medicine studies which she left after two years to concentrate on athletics.
She is also doing mentorship programmes for young sprinters in her native Ivory Coast with the hope that her achievements will inspire them to take up the races and put her country and Africa on the map.