She boasts the six fastest times in the world this year for the 60m, is only the seventh woman in history to dip below seven seconds, and has even caused footballer Didier Drogba to have sleepless nights…
Ahoure furore: Murielle’s Olympic efforts sparked a frenzy in the Ivory Coast
Meet Murielle Ahoure, 25, the standout star of the indoor season so far, and a woman with the world at her two very fast feet.
Last season the powerfully-built athlete blasted to national records of 10.99 and 22.42 for the 100m and 200m at the London Olympics, placing seventh and sixth in the respective finals.
Her form this season hints at even more to come. She is unbeaten in her five indoor competitions to date (nine wins including heats) and a personal best of 6.99 to win at the British Athletics GP in Birmingham suggests she will be a medal contender at the Moscow World Championships.
Ahoure also has a fascinating back-story to tell. The daughter of a high-ranking military general, she was born in Abidjan in West Africa. She moved to France aged two before stays in Japan, China, and Germany. Ahoure finally settled in the USA, where she still resides today.
“I had some amazing opportunities to grow up around so many different cultures,” says Ahoure, who speaks perfect English with a distinctive American drawl. “I remember living in China for a couple of years and being able to speak Chinese. When you are little you pick languages so quickly. Now I can’t speak a word.”
She did not start competing until she was 15, yet unwittingly, she says, it was during her time at elementary school in China that she first discovered a flair for speed.
“The boys would all race each other but I would always beat them, which was funny because I never took it seriously. I recall a long distance race at my school had been organised, and I remember sprinting for the first 100m ahead of everyone else before stopping. The race then continued on into the woods but for me that was first race.”
It was only after settling in the US did she pursue athletics seriously. Moving to a new school in her sophomore year at Hayfield Secondary in Alexandria, Virginia, she saw joining a sports team as a good way of making new friends. It was a road which was to wind all the way to the elite end of the sport.
In 2009 she ran a national 100m record of 11.09, as well as landing the NCAA indoor 200m crown. After leaving Miami to move to Houston and join Allen Powell’s training group in 2010, Ahoure has emerged as a world-class performer.
In 2011 she shaved a further 0.03 from her national 100m record and also posted a wind-assisted 10.86. Last year she won 60m silver at the World Indoor Championships, Ivory Coast’s first ever medal, before going on to reach two Olympic finals.
Her indoors: Ahoure (5) takes 60m silver behind Veronica Campbell-Brown (4) at the 2012 World Indoor Championships.
“Last year was a breakthrough for me,” she says. “It was an experience for me. I’d never run on that kind of stage in a stadium full of 80,000 people.”
Her performances caused quite a stir back in the Ivory Coast, with national news broadcasts interrupted to show live footage of her races. The sport’s profile was raised massively in the country that last won an Olympic athletics medal back in 1984.
“I have never seen so much unity in the country. People were praying for me. It was like the whole country stopped,” she says.
Even Didier Drogba, the Ivorian superstar footballer who starred in Chelsea’s Champions League and FA Cup wins last May, was blown away.
“Drogba told me, ‘You had me nervous and doing sleepless nights ahead of the 100m final, I was so nervous for you.’ It was really cool.”
Ahoure-fan Drogba celebrates winning the Champions League for Chelsea.
This season her indoor form has been imperious. She says the winter saw big improvements with her “running form” but Ahoure is now focused on the outdoor campaign, the pinnacle of which will be in Moscow.
“The funny thing is, everything is geared towards me running the 100m and 200m outdoors. We didn’t plan to run indoors at all. I’m very excited about the 100m, a lot of things I have struggled with in the past are now second nature to me.”
“Staying healthy and getting on the podium,” are her goals. “Right now, I just want to PB in both [the 100m and 200m]. Everyone’s goal is to get a medal.”
On current form, she’ll be causing Didier Drogba the odd sleepless night again in August.