Face of Flanders: Élodie Ouédraogo

Summary

Former Olympic sprinter Élodie Ouédraogo was back in the news recently, travelling to Burkina Faso to meet her birth mother for a Flemish TV programme

Harrowing reunion scene

Many Olympic medalists vanish from view soon after glory, but former Olympic sprinter and hurdler Élodie Ouédraogo was in the news recently, two years after she retired from her professional career, soon after the London Olympics. Ouédraogo is the third fastest Belgian woman of all time in the 100m sprint and the second fastest in the 400m hurdles. She was part of the 4x100m relay that took silver in the 2008 Beijng Olympics.

Ouédraogo was born in Brussels in 1981 to parents from Burkina Faso. In 1983, her mother left Brussels to travel back to her homeland and left Ouédraogo in the care of relatives. She intended to return when her problems with her husband were resolved, but she never did.

“I can’t describe what I suffered,” she said. “I accepted the sacrifice of leaving her so she could study.”

Ouédraogo, 33, was reunited with her birth mother only this year, as part of the series Heylen en de Herkomst, broadcast on VIER, in which journalist Martin Heylen accompanies well-known personalities back to their roots.

The encounter between mother and daughter was harrowing to watch – for Heylen and for viewers. The mother repeatedly stressed her own suffering and puts the blame for not having seen her daughter in more than 30 years onto the sister who brought Ouédraogo up, who she calls her mother.

“It’s only out of respect that I’m still sitting here,” Ouédraogo says at one point, speaking to Heylen in Dutch so the others won’t understand. “In all my life, I don’t think I’ve ever felt so lied to. To have to sit here and listen to her make up stories about my mother is breaking my heart into a thousand pieces. I was ready for a lot, but I was really and truly not ready for this.”

Fortunately, soon after that meeting was broadcast, she was back doing what celebrities more usually do: presenting a cookbook. The recipes in Het Gezonde Kinderkookboek (The Healthy Children’s Cookbook) were submitted by and for children, and Ouédraogo has contributed nutrition and sporting tips.

The recipe competition – 28 recipes made the cut from more than 3,000 submitted – and the book benefit the Zeepreventorium, a rehabilitation centre for sick children in De Panne. The book costs €4.99 and is available only at Lidl supermarkets.

Photo credit: SBS Belgium

Former Olympic sprinter Élodie Ouédraogo was back in the news recently, travelling to Burkina Faso to meet her birth mother for a Flemish TV programme.

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