The favorite and the outsider. Like certain sports competitions, the race for the flag bearer of the French Olympic team crowned, Monday, July 5, an expected sportswoman, and a ghost. Separated by “Ambassadors” from each Olympic federation among twelve candidates, judoka Clarisse Agbegnenou and gymnast Samir Aït Saïd will succeed French judo star Teddy Riner on Friday July 23 at the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2021 Olympic Games. -flags for the Paralympic Games, Sandrine Martinet (judo) and Stéphane Houdet (tennis), were chosen by a public vote on the Internet.
For the first time, French Olympism has chosen to appoint a pair, a man and a woman, to lead the French delegation over the Games, as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) now allows. And the 28-year-old judoka was notably preferred to the discus thrower Mélina Robert-Michon, silver in Rio, and five Olympic editions on the clock. Reigning in her under 63 kg category, the young woman has won the last four world titles (and five in total), but is chasing her “Missing star”, the Olympic coronation that escaped her five years ago – beaten in the final by Slovenian Tina Trstenjak.
Clarisse Agbegnenou savored a moment on Monday « unique », which adds to his “Crazy year”. “For many athletes, it is already complicated to go to the Olympic Games, but to be a flag bearer, you have to have already been to the Olympics. I am very honored, because in the France team, there are a lot of nuggets. “
If Agbegnenou is the biggest winner in French women’s judo, and won silver in Rio, her flag pair does not have the same pedigree. And for good reason, the Olympic record of Samir Aït Saïd is blank, and the gymnast has sometimes been nicknamed the “Cursed games”. Twice he qualified for the Olympics. But in 2012, three months before high mass in London, the French gymnast was injured during a European championship. Back, he was aiming for gold in Rio, on the rings. But on August 6, 2016, following a poor reception during a jump, the Frenchman collapsed, his left leg at right angles. Double open fracture tibia fibula, and Olympic dreams soar in qualifying, when he could aim for a medal.
The “indescribable pride” of the “ghost” Aït Saïd
In the summer of 2016, the injury raised fears of an abrupt end of his career for the French gymnast. Who refuses, mind of steel to support, to give in to fatality. Back at the highest level, Samir Aït Saïd wins his sesame for the Tokyo Games in the fall of 2019. Before taking advantage of the additional year “Offers” by the global pandemic linked to the new coronavirus to perfect his training.
“It’s an indescribable pride, especially for a guy like me, he explained Monday at a press conference. I did not expect it because there was heavy in front. “ He is notably ahead of the Olympic champions of London, Florent Manaudou (swimming) or Renaud Lavillenie (pole vault). New patron of the French National Olympic Committee (CNOSF), Brigitte Henriques said she had to reassure the gymnast on Sunday, when she told him the news by phone. “There was a two or three minute blank, and he asked me if it was he I was calling. “
First French gymnast designated flag bearer, Samir Aït Saïd will not have time to recover after the opening ceremony of the Games. The next day, Saturday July 24, he will put back the banner and abandon the five Olympic rings overlooking the stadium to take back those of his favorite apparatus, in qualifying. Hoping to succeed in his competition, to no longer be “The one who got injured in Rio”.
From now on, Samir Aït Saïd is also “The one who will carry the flag”. But like his teammate, he only aims for gold. “Being a flag bearer is wonderful, but I want to go to Tokyo to be an Olympic champion. I don’t want to scatter, and until my final is over, I want to stay in my bubble. That’s good, because we will already be in a bubble. “ Due to the health crisis, the details of the opening ceremony remain under wraps, but the two new captains of the Olympic Blues already know the energy they intend to bring to this role. “With Samir, we will bring joy and good humor”, a souri Agbegnenou.