France’s Lucie Decosse is regarded as one of the greatest judokas of all time, and not without good reason. A three-time world champion and four-time European champion, she won silver at Beijing 2008 and gold at London 2012, and was world number one in the 63kg class until 2008, and then in the 70kg through to her retirement in 2013.
Decosse will be travelling to the 2014 Nanjing Youth Olympic Games as an Athlete Role Model (ARM), ready to pass on her advice and experience to the young athletes who will come from all over the world to compete at the event. “It’s a real honour for me,” she says. “I took part in the 1998 World Youth Games in Moscow, which were a kind of forerunner of the YOG. It’s just amazing to be mentoring young athletes at the end of my sporting career.
“It’s like I’ve come full circle. I’ll be looking on it as a new experience for me though, as an accomplished sportswoman who’s reached the end of her career and is ready to share everything she knows.”
The learning curve
“You have to look on sport as a question of performance but also as a school of life,” she adds. “You need to give the very best of yourself, while learning from the values of sport in shaping your personality. In trying to get that across to young athletes in my new role, I’ll be drawing on my experience.”
Decosse is just one of a number of ARMs who will be on hand at the 2014 YOG. Hailing from all over the world and from a wide range of disciplines, her fellow role models will include athletes young and old, some of whom are still competing.
“I’d like to share my views with them as well and see how they’ve gone about their careers in their countries,” she continued. “I feel very honoured to have been chosen by the International Judo Federation. There are a lot of judokas around and I’m very happy they thought of me.”
She says that one of the key messages she will be passing on to competitors at the YOG is the need for perseverance. “I took part in three Olympic Games before I finally won gold. I worked hard, without knowing if I was going to succeed. So my message to them will be this: “You have to keep on working, stick with it through to the end, and keep on believing.
“Sport helps you develop as a person because you set objectives and try to reach them,” she added. “That’s something that also applies in everyday life and it’s an advantage to be able to start so young.
“You mustn’t forget that sport is also a source of pleasure and you have to remember you’re part of a team too. Judo is an individual sport, but I competed with team-mates, coaches and friends around me throughout my career. You can’t succeed on your own.”