Without a doubt Clarisse Agbegnenou is the best female judoka on the planet. What the French judoka has accomplished this year is unique. She won a fifth world title in the U63kg weight class in June in Budapest, before winning two Olympic gold medals a few weeks later in Tokyo. She’s the first athlete since Wim Ruska in 1972 to get two gold medals in one Olympic Games. No surprise that we didn’t see here on the mat since Tokyo.
Agbegnenou: “Physically and mentally, I feel very tired, and I need this year ends a bit more quietly for me. The last 5 years went quickly but also slowly at the same time. Emotionally, it has been a firework. So I need to rest in order to measure the accomplishment I made.”
In Tokyo, in the -63kg category, her main goal, she faced in Final the judoka who defeated her in 2016, the Slovenian Tina Trstenjak.
Agbegnenou: “When I saw that she was my opponent (in final in Tokyo), I had a smile and I said to myself : “Clarisse it was obvious ! What did you expect”. Is my destiny to be defeated by her each time in the two most important moments of my life or will I be able to dominate her finally. So I had both ideas in my head but I was telling myself that I had the chance to be in Olympic final, against Tina, I have a revenge to take, I’m a warrior… So I gave everything in order to have no regret and if I had to lose again, it would have been my faith. “
Agbegnenou picked up Trstenjak after their contest to give the Slovenian her appreciation and respect. You see that more often in this class where judo fans have seen some supreme judo battles between Agbegnenou, Trstenjak, Miku Tashiru and Yarden Gerbi in the (not too far) past.
The French star said with a smile: “Now I remember this moment in particular. Why we did that at the end of the fight ? Because when we were in the warming up area, we were looking at each other and we smiled to each other. I came to her and hugged her saying that may the best of us can win. It was obvious for each one of us. We needed this congratulation at the end of the match because if we were at this level it was because we pushed each other.”
Only four days after her individual gold medal, she was back on the mat with the French team in Final, against Japan. She was the 1st one to start the final, against the -70kg Olympic Champion, Chizuru Arai.
Agbegnenou: “I had nothing to lose. She was above my category, so I had nothing to prove. I just thought about doing my judo. I used to train with 70kg or boys so let’s see what happen…”
The gold medal match against Japan was in fact a non-expected quickly.
Agbegnenou “I didn’t think I could win so quickly. I was so proud and I couldn’t believe myself. It gave a good boost to the team. They thought : “Clarisse gave us a point while it wasn’t her category. We have no other choice than winning too.” And finally everything went very well.”
While the French team was celebrating with Teddy Riner grabbed Clarisse enthusiastic and dropped her in a second. That moment went viral, not only for her second gold medal, but Riner lifted her and dropped during the intense celebration after the Team event gold medal.
Clarisse: “I didn’t understand what happen to me. I was grabbed suddenly then released right after. I asked Teddy : “Why you dropped me ?” He answered : “But I didn’t grabbed you”. I said : “you grabbed me and dropped me then” and I showed him the video while it went viral and he laughed. So finally he was the only one to put me on floor in this Olympics.”
Although Distria Krasniqi was elected as best female judoka by the judo fans at the IJF awards, we think Agbegnenou get our appreciation as Agbegnenou gave judo fans some great moments this year when she counted her five World titles at the tatami in Budapest, when she lifted Tina Trstenjak to appreciate her rival and when she defeated Chizuru Arai giving the French team a huge boost for the eventual gold medal. Clarisse Agbegnenou should be on the top mind think about the best moments of 2021.