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Biography of Françoise MBANGO ETONE

Cameroon > Sport : Françoise MBANGO ETONE

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Born on 14/04/1976 (format : day/month/year)

Biography :

Françoise Mbango Etone (b. April 14, 1976)  is a Cameroonian athlete named the golden girl. She is a world champion of triple jump.

Francoise Mbango  won the gold medal at the Beijing on August 17,  2008 Olympics for the Women's Triple Jump. This comes after having she equally won a gold at the Athens Olympics in 2004.

Françoise has benefitted from the Olympic solidarity fund which was set up to help ahtletes from poorer countries to benefit from the training and assistance necessary to bring them up to a level where they could compete with other international athletes. One can say that Françoise Mbango Etone has proven that this works! - a good return on investment! Especially as the programme was abandoned several months prior to the Athens Olympics.

Making Olympic history seems to come easy to Francoise Mbango Etone. In Athens four years ago she became the first athlete from Cameroon to win an Olympic gold. In Beijing she became the first female triple jumper to retain an Olympic title, and she did so by breaking the Olympic record and setting a new African record in the process.
The competition was historic too as six women jumped further than 15 metres for the first time ever, and the 15 metre-barrier was breached no fewer than 10 times.

Historical outfit too! But the bit of history that seemed to excite the 32-year-old most of all was the one made by her unusual dress sense, for Mbango may well go down as the first track and field athlete to win Olympic gold medal while wearing a skirt. “Maybe it’s a small bit of history,” she said when asked about the scarlet garment she wore instead of her customary singlet and shorts, or the all-in one-lycra tunics favoured by the modern day athlete. “The idea was mine,” Mbango said, with a grin and a spark in her eye.
She has only returned to the sport this year after three years away while she gave birth to her first child, Niels Adna, in 2006. Being pregnant gives you lots of time to think, it seems. “When I was pregnant I started to watch tennis,” she explained. “I got to like watching it a lot on the TV. So when I came back to triple jumping I thought ‘OK, I want to look special now. I am an athlete, and an Olympic champion. But I am also a woman athlete.’ “I wanted to find something that would be more feminine and sexy but not too open,” she adds. “You have to repsect yourself, but I wanted to look good. And I wanted to make something new, to bring a change to the sport.” Whether it will catch on we’ll have to wait and see. But Mbango – who dedicated her medal to her son – was keen to relay the message that as yet she has no sponsor for this new style of track and field wear, and that she chose it herself from a shop in Paris where she lives and trains. “It had to match my country Cameroon’s colours,” she said. “But otherwise the federation was fine about it. I didn’t need their permission.” Yet it wasn’t the only bit of unusual wear on show in the triple jump final.

 Mbango had  also dyed her hair too, each coloured braid having a particular significance. “The black is to represent my contintent, Africa, the red for China, and the blonde is for the colour of my medal, gold,” she explained. Winning step by step strategy After winning the title four years ago, Mbango would have been satisfied with nothing less than gold this time. But getting into shape to compete for her crown was something of a challenge, one that she overcame with what she calls – appropriately enough – a step-by-step strategy. “It was really important for me to come back after having my baby and that’s why I took all the time I needed to train myself back to fitness,” she said. “I know many people around the world needed me to come back. Many believed in me and I believed in myself. But I didn’t want to rush it.” She couldn’t. Mbango says she put on something like 30kg when when she was pregnant and lost all her condition. “I was fat like this,” she says, circling her arms around her now well-toned body. “It was hard for me to come back because I lost so much shape. I took it easy. It was really difficult to get fit so that’s why I took my time, step-by-step.”“I told myself, ‘OK, just to get a medal you have to jump your best, 15.30. Maybe if you do that you’ll be OK. But I didn’t know which one it would be.” In the end, experience counted, she says. Experience and self belief. “Coming back from having a baby two years ago and making an Olympic record, I think have to be more happy now than I was in Athens. “But the gold is better than the record, I think, if I had to choose. It is for my baby.” After all he has a lot to answer for – not least, the long lay-off that then led to a slow return to fitness, and to the top of the Olympic podium. Oh, and in a way, he’s responsible for that scarlet skirt too.

Last update : 08/24/2008

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