Hugues Fabrice Zango jumping to bronze in Doha (© Getty Images)
African triple jump champion and continental record holder Hugues Fabrice Zango put Burkina Faso on the global athletics map this year when he became the first athlete from the West African nation win a medal at the World Athletics Championships.
In Doha, Zango added 16 centimetres to the African record he set in July with a 17.66m leap in the sixth round to finish third behind Christian Taylor and Will Claye in an outstanding competition. The 26-year-old produced a strong series of jumps which included four more leaps beyond 17 metres: 17.18m, 17.46m, 17.29m, and 17.56m.
“First of all, I wanted to get a medal,” Zango said. “I felt really strong. I was able to fight against the big guys. Next time it will be even better.”
“I was in really good shape to do something special and I achieved my goal,” he continued. “We are all working on going further and further and working on some technical improvements.”
In Doha’s Diamond League meeting in 2015, Pedro Pablo Pichardo and Christian Taylor produced an unforgettable competition, with both jumping beyond the 18 metre-barrier. September’s World Championships final confirmed Doha’s reputation as a special setting for the triple jump.
“It means a lot to finish third behind Christian Taylor and Will Claye and beat Pedro Pablo Pichardo to win the bronze medal,” Zango said. “They all jumped over 18 metres in their careers. For Burkina Faso it is really a big thing. Finally we entered into world athletics, because we have never had a medal on the world level. I am the first and I hope more medals will follow. My next goal is to win a medal at the Olympic Games in Tokyo and make athletics more popular in my country.”
Born in Koudougou in June 1993, Zango has spent most of his life in the capital Ouagadougou. Before winning the world bronze medal in Doha, Zango took silver at the 2016 African Championships in Durban with a then-PB of 16.81m. He followed that with gold at the 2017 Francophone Games with 16.92m and ending that year with a 16.97m career best. He broke through the 17 metre-barrier in January 2018 with a break out 17.23m leap at the French indoor meeting in Val de Reuil. The following August he took the African title in Asaba, Nigeria, with a 17.11m leap, an outdoor personal best.
Zango says he began his sports career as a football player in 2011 but his focus didn’t stay there very long.
“My physical education teacher spotted my talent and advised me to try athletics. I went to the athletics track and he told me that I was more skilled in jumping events than in running events. This is how I started with triple jump. I then came to France to study electrical engineering at university.”
Zango is still very much a student, currently working towards a PhD in electronics in Lille.
Last January Zango produced his global breakthrough when he set the African indoor record with 17.58 at the Paris Bercy indoor meeting, adding 35 centimetres to his previous indoor continental record set a year earlier. His Doha build-up included a 17.50m leap at the French championships, where he was competing as a guest, breaking the African record which had stood for 12 years. He also produced some other solid results during the Diamond League season, finishing fourth in Rome with 17.30m, fourth in Monaco with 17.33m and fourth in Paris with 17.14m, which made him a serious medal contender for Doha.
Zango has been coached by Teddy Tamgho since September 2018, who retired this year after a very successful career highlighted by his world indoor record of 17.92m in 2011 and world title in 2013. That came courtesy of an 18.04m national record, his only leap beyond the magical 18-metre barrier.
“For me the 17.66m was the perfect jump because it got me the wonderful bronze medal but I guess my coach will certainly find something to improve,” Zango said. “Tamgho has improved many aspects of my technique. I have room for improvement. I am working on it and I hope that my technique will continue to improve.”
Diego Sampaolo for World Athletics