Picture by 2016 Getty Images

Taekwondo ace Cheick Sallah Cissé set to defend his Olympic title at Tokyo 2020

Cheick Sallah will go into The Olympic Games as defending champion, and on the back of securing gold at the African Championships in 2021. 

Cheick Sallah Cissé isn't afraid of anyone.

The Ivorian taekwondo ace believes some of his biggest strengths lie in his height and flexibility.

And it was a combination of the two that helped him land that last-gasp head-kick to dramatically beat Team GB's Lutalo Muhammad in the last second of the Olympic final in Rio.

That was Ivory Coast's first ever Olympic gold medal.

It changed his life, and now he's preparing to do it all over again.

Cheick wins Championship gold

Cheick Cissé was among the three Ivorian athletes that won gold at the 2021 African Taekwondo Championships in Dakar.

Ruth Gbagbi and Aminata Traoré also won gold, beating Nigeria's Elizabeth Anyanacho and Morocco's Sabah Koutbi respectively.

Cissé, in the men's -80kg division, defeated Ahmad Rawy of Egypt to go on better than the silver he won in 2018.

The 27-year-old also retained his African Games title in 2019, both wins prompting his qualification for Tokyo 2020.

"It is very difficult in sports to maintain a certain level, it is one thing to be a champion but it is more difficult to keep up this level and remain champion," he said.

"I did it and I am very happy about it."

Looking ahead to Tokyo

Cissé successfully qualified for the 2020 Olympics in the -80kg division after finishing top 5 in the World Taekwondo rankings for his weight bracket.

Now he's approaching the games with future generations as his main driving force to succeed.

"Thanks to me there are now children dreaming of becoming champions, and that is very nice," said Cissé.

"For now these young people are my main motivation."

After becoming an Olympic champion and winning numerous golds throughout his career so far, Cissê now feels he has nothing more 'to prove.'

He wants to keep inspiring young people in Africa just as he was inspired by football sensations Didier Drogba and Samuel Eto'o.

And no matter what happens on the mat on Tokyo, he will long be a household name in his homeland of Côte d'Ivoire.