Ivory Coast raises roof for Rio Olympians

AFP , Monday 5 Sep 2016

Cheick Sallah Cisse
Ivory Coast Taekwondo fighter Cheick Sallah Cisse (Reuters)

The Ivory Coast's president has rewarded Cheick Sallah Cisse, the country's first ever Olympic gold medallist, with a new house and a 50 million CFA franc (75,000 euro, $84,000) cash bonus.

Cisse, who clinched the men's under-80kg taekwondo title with a dramatic last-second move, was one of four Ivorian athletes competing at Rio 2016 to be honoured for their exploits on Monday.

Ruth Gbagbi, who won taekwondo bronze to become the first ever Ivorian woman medallist, was also given the keys to a new home and 30 million CFA francs.

Two track athletes were also honoured by Ivorian head of state Alassane Ouattara.

Marie-Josée Ta Lou, who came in fourth in the women's 100m and 200m, and Ben Meite, sixth in the men's 100m, pocketed 20 million and 10 million CFA francs respectively.

The quartet were made officers of the National Order.

Ouattara released funds totalling 380 million CFA francs to the west African nation's 12 athletes competing in Rio last month and their coaching staff and officials.

Before Rio, the Ivory Coast had only one medal to its name -- the men's 400m silver picked up by Gabriel Tiacoh at the Los Angeles Games in 1984.

That all changed when Cisse stunned third seed Lutalo Muhammad of Great Britain with a four-point score right at the death to win 8-6.

At the presidential presentation the athletes appealed for increased funding.

"We were supported. The Government did what it could...but we need new laws passed so that athletes can live off their sports," declared Cisse.

The majority of Ivorian athletes train in difficult conditions and find it hard to raise funds to meet their costs.

Ouattara said he had listened to "the complaints" and said he expected "proposals from the government" to deal with their plight.

He had earlier recalled the 32-year wait for a medal "before our dream was realised" and said that the medals "were a joy for every Ivorian".

"The Ivory Coast is on the map of the world in every area," he stated.

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