From our special correspondent in Tokyo,
Four years of brooding and fomenting revenge is a long time. So when Clarisse Agbegnenou learned that she would have to wait another year to erase the disillusionment of the Rio Olympics and try to win the only title missing from her huge record, she literally collapsed. “I was really devastated. I cried a lot, ”she admits without hiding. Shortly after the announcement of the postponement, she explained in a statement: “As an athlete, we dedicate our life to our sport. I’ve been preparing for a single competition for almost four years. I organized my life and made daily sacrifices for this deadline. “
She then thinks back to those hasty visits to family, to friends almost lost to follow-up, to those little deviations that she did not allow herself … in short, to everything that makes the life of a young woman between 23 and 27 years old and that she had put aside to better shape her body and her mind, entirely turned towards this goal. The backlash was violent, she was almost thinking that she had done it all for nothing. “The postponement had a very strong psychological impact on her,” recognizes Larbi Benboudaoud, the boss of women’s judo.
A personalized “cookware”
The latter then developed with his staff a program with small onions so that these twelve additional months do not turn into a pot from which the five-time world and European champion would have come out boiled. “We had to let go of things that we would not have let go in normal times, because she needed it,” explains the man who is also director of high performance. Clarisse is very professional in her preparation, I know her well, I started working with her when she was 14-15 years old. Today, she is completely autonomous, but she belongs to a team, it should not be forgotten. There is a framework that must be respected by all members. It was a meal to do, without harming the rest of the team. “
To breathe new life into its preparation, Agbegnenou has diversified its horizons. She flew to Reunion Island during the confinement, took up yoga, boxing and jujitsu. And after hesitating, she finally embarked on her life coach training at HEC, long planned for 2021 and which she did not want to postpone. At the beginning of July, during the last internship of the France team in Soustons, in the Landes, she also began to write her final thesis, which she will have to return in September.
During this internship, she was not housed with the rest of her teammates but alone, in the middle of nature. Personal choice, validated by management. “All year, I have done things on my own, I expressed the wish to continue like this until the end”, she said in a column to the Parisian, before flying to Tokyo. “Throughout this year, we have tried to break the routines, recalls Benboudaoud. It took a long time for everyone, we had to get out of our comfort zone, face uncertainty almost every day. The difficulty is to keep the requirements of the very high level while adapting to the context. “
Groping, Clarisse Agbegnenou was able to find the path that suited her. You only have to see its results since the recovery to be convinced. Three international tournaments, three victories: the European Championship in Prague at the end of 2020, then the Doha Masters and his historic fifth world title in June in Budapest. What definitely to find the smile, which does not leave it again any more with the approach of the D-Day.
Above all, she received a big boost by being elected flag bearer of the French delegation for the opening ceremony. A moment that marked her, and finished making her enter the competition. “We really transmitted the energy, the atmosphere, it was really an unforgettable moment”, she appreciated at the exit. Come on, there’s more to it.