At 28, the tricolor leader -100 kg still has no record at the highest level worldwide. A raging statement for this talented athlete, victim of his natural goodness. At the European Championships in Kazan on Saturday, he is aiming for gold to come up with a favorite status at the Olympics.
Cyrille Maret, at Insep in April. Photo: Florent Bouteiller
The scene is August 29, 2015, in Astana, Kazakhstan. It is a little over 19 hours when Cyrille Maret shows up in the mixed zone. Spectral, dark-eyed, the judoka responds with the frank spontaneity that characterizes him to dumbfounded journalists. “It’s a nightmare,” he begins before wiping away a few tears. I had to take a little pity. Instead of shortening his suffering, I spared him. And again, this fight proved that I was too nice. “
The fight in question is the one he has just emerged losing against Toma Nikiforov. With the syndrome of the lodges, forearms paralyzed with the bonus of a broken finger, the Belgian is clearly unable to fight as soon as he enters the tatami. For four minutes and thirty seconds, the boy is hard to see, bending under the dominant guard of the French writhing with pain. As the penalties fall for his opponent, Cyrille Maret, compassionate, is teddy bear. He knows the fight is in his pocket. And failing to drive the nail to eliminate his opponent or stick a box, the member of the ACBB quietly manages his lead, as in a vulgar randori (fight training).
The problem is that Toma Nikiforov does not intend to let go. In the middle of a championship second zone, the Belgian would surely have abandoned. But for a first world bronze medal, no question. At thirty seconds of the end of regulation time, Cyrille Maret launches an action without conviction. The opportunity is too good for Nikiforov who against the attack and brand waza-ari. The Frenchman gets up mad with rage. He knows that the medal has just changed sides, that it will be almost impossible for him to get back on track in such a short time. He then throws himself on his opponent who sets him on a makikomi. A cruel and logical ippon for Cyrille Maret; liberator for the Belgian.
Eight months after this terrible failure, the wound is closed but the pain still there. “It’s something that will always follow me. It’s part of my story, says Cyrille Maret. I hope it will serve me because it does not have to happen again. “ Failing to feel sorry for his sad fate, the judoka preferred to revive the battle and reassure himself. In October 2015 and last February, he won the Paris Tournament for the second and third consecutive time. But the real test event before the Rio Olympics begins this weekend with the European Championships, Saturday, April 23, in Kazan (Russia). “It’s been three years since I stomp on the third place of the podium and I would like to climb the ladder. A European title, it would put me in confidence, “ likes to dream Cyrille Maret.
Trust, he will need for the global test that will be announced four months later, in Rio. Because if Cyrille Maret refuses to consider himself a “contender under -100 kg” , he is indeed one of the favorites in this category where, he admits, “no athlete really dominates” . And this is the paradox of the situation in which Cyrille Maret is stuck. Able to beat all the best, he has no world medal or Olympic medal to claim for being a favorite. “I consider myself an underdog for the title. I won a lot of tournaments but I did not get anything in the league. But it is with this kind of event that one creates a list of achievements, “he analyzes, lucid.
A finding shared by Teddy Riner, his partner and friend at Insep. “Cyrille is a champion, but he does not know it yet. The day he becomes aware of this, he will become one, “ says the Olympic heavyweight champion at eight world gold medals. Time is pressing, however. At 28, the one who maintains “the kid’s dream of being world champion or Olympic” will have to leave his natural goodness – and his doubts – to the cloakroom if he wants to reach this destiny that reaches out to him. And tell yourself now and for a long time: no more kindness!