Cote d'Ivoire sprinter Marie-Josee Ta Lou, who is currently the world's fastest woman, landed in Mombasa Wednesday morning and expressed her joy at being in Kenya for the first time in almost nine years, ready to start her early season training along Kenya's scenic coast.
The 30-year-old Africa and Continental Championships 100 metres champion regretted that she won't be exactly on holiday in Mombasa as her iron-fist coach, Anthony Koffi, has prescribed a rigorous workout regime for her during her stay at the Kenyan coast as she warms up for this year's indoor season.
The workouts began in Abidjan on Tuesday where Koffi took her through a 4x200 metres intervals training with "active rest" in between the sprints.
"That killed me! I could hardly walk! But my coach told me it would help me sleep on the flight from Abidjan to Nairobi," she joked after landing in Mombasa having connected to the coast after a six-hour Abdijan-Nairobi flight.
Ta Lou is the chief guest at Friday's Safaricom Sports Personality of the Year Awards (Soya) and will integrate her visit to Mombasa with light training as she eyes the indoors.
She is excited at having come back to Kenya for the first time since 2010 when she competed at the African Athletics Championships at the Nyayo National Stadium.
It's her first time in Mombasa, however.
The sprinter burst into prominence in 2010 after she finished second in the 100m at the Gabriel Tiacoh track and field meet held in Abidjan and named after the great Ivorian sprinter Gabriel Tiacoh, one of the stars at the 1987 All African Games in Nairobi and also silver medallist in the 400 metres at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
She clocked 12.10 seconds at the Tiacoh meet before winning a 100m and 200m double at the Ivorian national championships to qualify for the Nairobi continental championships where she finished sixth in the semi-finals (12.16).
A lot has happened since then with Ta Lou finishing last season at the top of the 100m world rankings having run four of the 10 fastest times, including a personal best 10.85 at the season-opening Doha Diamond League meeting on May 4.
GOING FOR GOLD
Having visited Kenya nine years ago as an inexperienced runner, she is now here as the world's top-ranked sprinter who hopes to convert her 100m and 200m silver medals from the 2017 World Championships in London to gold when Doha hosts this year's global event in October.
"I'm very happy to be in Kenya for the second time now, although it my first time to be in Mombasa where I look forward to enjoying the beaches among other recreational facilities," she said at the Moi International Airport, shortly after her arrival just before midday.
"It's a good opportunity to see more of the country as I did not have the opportunity in 2010," the sprints star, born in the central Ivorian town of Bouafle in the Marahoue region of the Sassandra-Marahoue District.
On Thursday, she is expected to pay a courtesy call on Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho before meeting Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) Managing Director Daniel Manduku and touring the port of Mombasa.
She will then train at KPA's Mbaraki grounds where she will also offer tips to upcoming sprinters in a mini-clinic courtesy of KPA.
"I live in Africa, train in Africa and I started my athletics in Africa and I would, therefore, want to encourage as many athletes as possible to rise to my level in the continent which is very possible," she said.
She was received at the Mombasa airport by the county's sports executive Kyalo Munywoki, sports chief officer and officials from the organising committee of the Soya Gala.
Munywoki paid tribute to the athlete for accepting to officiate at the Soya Gala saying her presence will motivate the young and upcoming athletes in the Coast region.
"Mombasa has the best weather for athletics and sprints in particular. We hope your visit and the clinic you will conduct will motivate the region to produce a world beater in athletics one day," Munywoki said.