Rio Olympics 2016: How last-second gold changed taekwondo fighter's life

Cheick Sallah Cisse
Cheick Sallah Cisse became the Ivory Coast's first ever Olympic champion when he won gold in the last second at Rio 2016

The phrase "one man's loss is another man's gain" could not be more apt than in the case of Cheick Sallah Cisse.

The 23-year-old Ivorian broke hearts across Great Britain when he snatched victory from Lutalo Muhammad in the last second of the men's -80kg taekwondo Olympic final.

It was the Ivory Coast's first Olympic gold and he has, since Rio, become a national hero.

He has been gifted a new house and a 50 million CFA franc (£65,400) cash bonus.

Lutalo Muhammad
Lutalo Muhammad was visibly distraught after the final - "I was so close to becoming Olympic champion and making my dream"

Not bad for an athlete who only has access to poor facilities and finds it hard to raise funds to meet his training costs.

Cisse insists, however, his celebrity status won't distract him from his taekwondo title defence in Tokyo in 2020.

"People look at me differently now, I've become a national symbol. I can't walk in the street without being recognised, I'm a star," he told AFP.

"People approach you, they congratulate you, it's nice, touching, all this gives me strength to achieve even more."

Cheick Sallah Cisse
Cisse was given a hero's welcome on his arrival into Abidjan

Cisse, who stunned third seed Muhammad with a four-point score right at the death to win 8-6, was honoured by Ivorian president Alassane Ouattara on his return home.

He took the opportunity to ask for an improvement in conditions and coaching for athletes.

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

His request was heard and Ouattara promised to examine what could be done.

Cisse meets Ivorian president Alassane Ouattara
Cisse and the Ivorian Olympic team were invited to the Presidential palace upon their return, where they met Alassane Ouattara

"We have talented boys and girls in taekwondo. We have to help them," insisted Cisse.

"I want to tell my little brothers to believe in their dreams. I've gone from nothing to become someone, without any help."

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