She was a surprise guest at last year’s IAAF World Championships in Moscow when the French delegation added Stella Akakpo to the entry list at the last minute following her 100m win at the European Athletics Junior Championships in Rieti.
It was there that she set her personal record with 11.26 achieving the qualifying standard for the World Championships.
It was almost a dream come true for her and the rest of the French 4x100 relay when they finished in second place on the last day of competition but were later disqualified for an illegal handover of the baton.
She was given the honour of concluding the French relay as she fought back from fourth to cross the finish in front of the United States and Great Britain, but in the end it was not to be.
“I took the decision a lot harder than the rest of the girls, it was my first major championships and I really felt like something had been taken away from me. But now it is forgotten and we will win more medals in the future,” she told lemonde.fr.
Akakpo, now 19, took part in the all-women’s meeting yesterday in Eaubonne, France, where she triumphed in the 60m with a personal best 7.36, but still not quick enough to make the qualifying standards for World Indoor Championships in Sopot.
“I would be glad to qualify for Sopot, but my focus is on the outdoor season. If I can continue to improve my indoor technique this could be useful for when I run the 100m.”
Akakpo has made the European Athletics Championships in Zurich the major objective of the season as she wants to continue to gain experience and learn by competing with the best.
“I am still finding it difficult to run quick when facing stronger opponents. I want to lower my times when it matters most.”
Last year’s performance in Rieti meant that she was France’s fastest runner over 100m, but she is still not sure to be selected for Zurich.
“We are five or six French runners capable of making the qualifying standards, so I will surely have to go even faster to show that I deserve it,” she continued.
We will be paying close attention to the growth of one of Europe’s most promising young athletes over the course of the season, as she could prove to be one of the surprises of this summer.