On Friday, August 19, Cheick Cisse made history by winning Ivory Coast’s first-ever Olympic gold medal. Cisse’s win came in the finals of the 80 kg taekwondo event.
Cisse beat Great Britain’s Lutalo Muhammad 8-6 to win in a dramatic final. Muhammad, who is ranked number 4 in the world and won a bronze medal in the 2012 London games, was largely expected to win the bout, while Cisse stepped on the mat as the underdog. Muhammad started very fine as expected, landing a high kick on Cisse’s head and finishing the first round with a 3-0 lead.
Cisse responded well in the second round, however, with a good showing to keep within distance and give himself a fighting chance. Muhammad continued to have the upper hand for awhile and looked set to claim the gold with his 6-5 lead until Cisse’s stunning reverse turn kick to Muhammad’s head in the final seconds settled the match in his favour, 8-6.
It was a wild celebration thereafter for the 22-year-old Ivorian, who was also a gold medalist at the 2015 All-African games.
Taekwondo earned Ivory Coast a second medal in Rio – Ivorian Ruth Gbagbi defeated Farida Azizova of Azerbaijan to win Olympic bronze in the women’s 67 kg category. She is, of course, Ivory Coast’s first female Olympic medalist, and has the distinction of achieving her victory in a martial arts event that is not terribly popular among many women.
Ivory Coast’s only other previous medal in the Olympics came during the 1984 Games in Los Angeles, when Tiacoh Gabriel won silver in the men’s 400m final event. Ivorians first participated in the Summer Olympics at Tokyo in 1964, four years after winning its independence from France in 1960.
The French-speaking, West African nation and its 22 million people had to wait 20 years before it could celebrate its first medal win, and another 32 years to receive its first gold and bronze medals. Chieck’s win was the only gold medal won during the 2016 Olympics in the entire ECOWAS sub-region.