Four years after her bronze medal in the -63kg in London, the reigning world champion -70 kg, 34, is in contention to win the Olympic title in Rio.
Gevrise Emane, European Champion in Kazan (Russia) in April. Photo: Vasily Maximov
You must never bury a lioness before her last breath. Because even wounded, the animal claws always. This is, in essence, the great lesson that emerges from the career of Gévrise Emane. At 34, the oldest member of the French women’s judo team has the sharp fangs to get the Olympic title on Wednesday, August 10, in the -70 kg category. And all hopes seem allowed for the native of Yaoundé (Cameroon) since she took the reins of the category by winning the world gold in August 2015 in Astana (Kazakhstan).
Before stealing his third world title in the Kazakh capital, few would have bet on such a flashback. Unselected for the Chelyabinsk Worlds a year ago – she had preferred to devote herself to her sport teaching after obtaining a Master in Public Management -, eliminated in the first round at the European Championships in Baku (Azerbaijan), the judoka seemed late, unable to snag a new major title to his record. And then, once is not customary, the great lady of French judo has again silenced the bad language.
During this day managed by master, she had first hand on the Dutchman Van Djike and the Canadian Renaud-Roy. Sure of her kumikata (taking guard), she had then left the double world champion (2009-2014) Colombian Yuri Alvear before offering the scalp of the Japanese Arai. But it was in the final that she made a splash. In 14 short seconds, “Gé” scotched the Spanish Maria Bernabeu on a sumptuous sode-tsuri-komi-goshi (shoulder movement), her favorite technique. “When I decided to go back to judo, to get back to it seriously, in September 2014, it was obviously with the objective of the Olympics in 2016, but I knew that it was going through a performance in Astana,” he said . she, a few days later, to the bi-monthly L’Esprit du judo .
Gévrise Emane won his fifth European title on 22 April in Kazan. JACQUES DEMARTHON / AFP
By winning this third world crown, Gévrise Emane had managed to make a double blow: to win his ticket for the Olympic Games and to equal the number of world titles held by Lucie Décosse, who currently has the best track record of French women’s judo.
But maybe more for a very long time … Because if Gévrise Emane wins the long-awaited Grail, after two unsuccessful attempts in 2008 and 2012, the Levalloisienne will offer the record of her compatriot who has a title of European champion less than her youngest daughter (she is one year apart). A masterful finish that sounds like a snub to the story, the two athletes having crossed their destiny.
In 2007, everything seems to smile to Gévrise Emane. Vice-champion of the world in 2005, double champion of Europe (2006, 2007), the judoka is well party to reign for years on the category of -70 kg. Especially since that year, at 25, she won her first world title in Rio. But two events will upset his plans. His defeat in the first round of the Olympic Games in Beijing sounds the death knell of his invincibility and sows doubt in the spirit of the champion. A doubt accentuated by the rocket Lucie Décosse, Olympic vice-champion in 2008 who, tired of diets, decides to delight the national leadership of -70 kg. The rocket Guyanese does not have to force too much his talent to steal the first place. And rather than exhausting himself in a sterile battle against his compatriot, true genius of the world judo, Gévrise Emane decides to try his luck in the lower category of -63 kg. “When I came down in -63 kg, frankly, it had nothing to do with Lucie. The failure in Beijing had hurt me so much I weigh my words … I was in conflict with myself until I had a rejection, a disgust of the category of -70 kg, “she debriefs at L ‘Spirit of judo .
The bet is daring. While many champions, like Lucie Décosse, have managed to shine in two different categories, few of them managed however to shine down the category. The torment of the regimes and the different mobility of the adversaries is often right of the greatest motivations. But not for Gévrise Emane, the applied strategist who imposes a drastic lifestyle to meet his challenge, helped by his coach Levallois Christian Chaumont. In 2010, she won the prestigious Tournoi de Paris, an event she won again the following year before taking a second continental title in April 2011.
Gévrise Emane. Photo: Florent Bouteiller
Improbable still months ago, the crossover between Gévrise Emane and Lucie Décosse proves to be most judicious for the team of France. At the world championships in Paris, the two athletes took gold in their respective categories, soon imitated by Audrey Tcheuméo who won the title in -78 kg. The “lioness” has been successful and one of the favorites at the London Olympics a year later.
It was without counting the stress that makes him lose all his means. “The London Olympics have been the worst competition of my life. I was in a second state, in tears, I even said that I did not want to compete, I was really in distress … In fact, it’s the ghost of the Beijing Olympics, which I thought was evacuated after to have worked a lot mentally, which returned to me in the face a few hours to get on the tatami, “she says. In the end, she will manage to seize “the mental” Olympic bronze.
2013 is a year without. If Gévrise Emane must recover from his second disillusionment to the Games (to relativize all the same, the judoka having collected a medal), it must also deal with the newcomer Clarisse Agbegnenou, who arrives as a roller-compressor in -63 kg . At the Rio World Cup in 2013, the verdict falls. If Gévrise Emane manages to hang the bronze, it is the judoka of Argenteuil who imposes itself as the new leader by taking the money. Once again, the lucidity of “Gé” forces it to a crossover that makes it return to its original category.
It will take him some time before he regains his bearings. But in December 2014, the machine is launched. Gévrise Emane signs his big comeback by winning the prestigious Grand Slam of Tokyo. If she misses her European championships in the wake, her tactical judo is in place as she will prove in Astana by tripling the bet at the Worlds. Since then, nothing seems to be able to stop his ultimate challenge. With this in mind, the European Championships at the end of April in Kazan (Russia) were a good test. She won them handsomely by dominating the world No. 1 Dutch Kim Polling, neutralized by the unstoppable guard of the French and projected on a ura-swimming (cons) formidable. Let it be said: the lioness is not dead. She claws, as ever.