With Help From a Kid Sister
Although she placed only tenth in the triple jump at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Françoise Mbango developed a record of finishing second in major meets. She won the silver medal at the 1998 Commonwealth Games, the 2001 world championships and the 2003 world championships. At both world championships, she was beaten by Tatyana Lebedeva of Russia.
Prior to the 2004 Olympics, Mbango trained alone and then took on a special trainer-her younger sister, Eseppo. She also received a scholarship from the IOC's Olympic Solidarity movement. Mbango arrived in Athens with her hair shaved as a gesture of support for her mother, who was ill.
In the final, Mbango fouled her first attempt and then, with her second try, jumped 15.30 metres, setting an African record and bettering her personal best by 25 centimetres. She repeated the distance in the sixth and final round. In fact, her series was so consistent that she was the first woman to surpass 15 metres five times in one competition. Her gold medal was the first for a Cameroonian in athletics.
After the Athens Games, the Yaoundé native left to study in the USA and put her sports career on hold to have a child. In 2007, she came back to the track, and qualified immediately for the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008.
In China, Cameroon’s triple jump specialist came sixth in the heats with a single jump of 14.50 metres. In the final, Françoise Mbango Etone produced a second jump of 15.39 metres, an Olympic record and the second best performance of all time! It was enough to win the competition, ahead of Russia’s Tatyana Lebedeva, the silver medallist, and Greece’s Hrysopiyí Devetzí, who won the bronze. Françoise Mbango Etone became a double Olympic gold medallist! A veritable feat!