The French, triple champion of Europe, got her selection at the Olympics in pain. A burst of pride has put her back on the right path.

Autumn Pavia. Photo: PASCAL GUYOT / AFP.

Autumn Pavia. Photo: PASCAL GUYOT / AFP.

On Monday, August 8th, when Autumn Pavia will be in the Arena 2 Carioca’s call room before playing her first fight, she will not need to look very far for her motivation. A quick retrospective of the past season should be enough. Because to be there, the French had to outdo herself and chase her doubts.

All athletes experience pitfalls in a career. But Autumn Pavia has had a particularly big one during the 2015-2016 season. Everything had started well though. At the end of August 2015, Orléanaise won its second world bronze medal in -57 kg. And strong of this performance, she may have said (a little fast) that the qualification for the Olympics was in the pocket.

But here it was, surely it was not time to relax. His great rival in the French team, Hélène Receveaux, had everything to gain. And she bravely tried her luck. In December 2015, the Dijonnaise won a beautiful silver medal at the very busy Grand Slam of Tokyo and two months later, she took second place again at the Grand Prix of Düsseldorf. This performance earned him to be selected for the European Championships at the end of April with Autumn Pavia and therefore, to keep all hope of going to the Olympic Games.

Reversal of situation

It was at the Grand Prix of Samsun (Turkey), in early April, that the judoka of the ADJ21 clearly touched her dream. By beating in the final her compatriot on a uchi-mata (hip technique) a few seconds after the end of the fight, Hélène Receveaux began to believe. And Autumn Pavia, destabilized, sank, hard cashing this failure that challenged its national supremacy in the category.

The observation was simple. If at the European Championships, the tall slender blonde could not do better than her rival, it would be difficult for her to be still the favorite in the hearts of coaches to fly in the Carioca city. So she remobilized. She went to seek from her mentor, Marc Alexandre, a little comfort in Marseille. And she presented herself as we knew her, combative, on the tatamis of Kazan (Russia) at the end of April.

Autumn Pavia.

Autumn Pavia. Photo: Florent Bouteiller

If Autumn Pavia was cleaning up her picture, atomizing the German Myriam Roper on a splendid o-soto-gari, Helen Chaseaux was not left either. Logically, in the semifinals, the explanation between the two girls could take place. From the outset, Pavia took the lead by stifling the guard of his compatriot not to suffer the same disappointment as Samsun. Driven to its limits, Chaneaux made a defensive error and was stung to the ground. A boon for Pavia who pushed the nail by fetching the title at the expense of the Bulgarian Ilieva. This time, the ticket was in the pocket. Received, in tears and at the foot of the podium, could say goodbye to Rio.

This big reversal of the situation proves at least one thing: Like all champions worthy of the name, the judoka knows how to transcend itself during big events. Did she not prove it by going to get the Olympic bronze, against all odds, in August 2012 in London? Yet the previous Olympiad had been somewhat complicated.

Long in the shadow of Morgane Ribout

Aided by her title of vice-world champion won at the junior level in 2008, the Levalloisienne of the time had taken the leadership with authority by winning the senior French championships in January 2009. But now, no one, surely not her, would have predicted that her most formidable competitor, Morgane Ribout, would take the silver medal at the Paris Tournament a month later. In April, the member of Lagardère Paris Racing seized the European bronze before creating surprise by winning the title of world champion in Rotterdam in August.

“At the moment, I was envious. I had no regrets because I was hurt, recalls Autumn. But all the performances I was doing were eclipsed. I was constantly sent back to her, we were constantly confronted. “Fortunately for her, the star Ribout declines over the month when the star Pavia said.

Autumn Pavia. Photo: Florent Bouteiller

If she bows at the world championships in Paris in 2011, she makes an honorable 2012 season by winning bronze at the Paris Tournament and the European Championships. Nothing, however, announcing his great feat at the Olympic Games four months later. Olympic medalist, Autumn Pavia then enjoys a new status in the French team. Friable mentally until then, she takes confidence in herself and puts the titles like pearls. Triple European champion (2011, 2014 and 2016), double world medalist (2014 and 2015), double winner of the Tournament of Paris are some of the most beautiful lines of her list.

At 27, the right-handed woman of 1.72 m must now fetch the biggest titles. And she has the capabilities, accustomed to the world podiums for some time now. Its invasive guard and large hip movements (harai-goshi, uchi-mata, o-soto-gari) will be precious allies. But more than technique, it will take a sacred mental to overcome the defending Olympic champion, Kaori Matsumoto, she has never beaten. It is at this price that she will overcome her inferiority complex against this Japanese, too accustomed to reign supreme over the category of -57 kg.