France’s first lady of judo
On 1 August 2012 in London, French judoka Lucie Décosse ended her long wait for the only prize missing from her trophy cabinet as she claimed an Olympic gold.
Bout 1: Athens 2004
Lucie Décosse started honing her judo skills at the age of six. In 2000, when she was 19, she won the 2000 World Junior Championship title (defeating Japan’s Ayumi Tanimoto, who would go on to become her greatest rival), and soon made a seamless transition to senior competition. In 2003, she was crowned European champion in the -63kg category, an achievement that was sandwiched between two victories on home turf in the prestigious Paris Tournament in 2001 and then again in 2004. By the time she entered the tatami at the Olympic sports hall in Ano Liossa on 17 August 2004 for her first taste of Olympic competition, she was still just 23, and lacked the experience to progress beyond the quarterfinals. Knocked out by Dutch judoka Daniela Krukower, she was then eliminated in the second repechage by Canada’s Marie-Hélène Chisholm to finish seventh overall. But it was an experience that was to stand her in good stead.
Bout 2: Beijing 2008
In the four years following her first taste of Olympic action, Décosse won her first world title, at the 2005 World Championships in Cairo, where she overcame Tanimoto in the final. In 2007 in Rio de Janeiro, her Japanese rival took her revenge, consigning Décosse to the silver medal. Meanwhile, in the European Championships she embarked on a steady trajectory to the top of the podium, winning bronze in 2005, silver in 2006 and then gold in 2007 and 2008, leaving her ideally poised for the Olympic Games. On 12 August 2008, in the sports hall of Beijing Science & Technology University, Décosse and Tanimoto swept aside their opponents to steer a course to another showdown. A minute and a half into the final bout, Décosse launched an attack that was immediately countered by her opponent, who produced a textbook uchi-mata to floor the Frenchwoman and win by ippon. Typically gracious in defeat, Décosse described the winning manouvre by Tanimoto as “a moment of pure judo”.
Bout 3: London 2012
After completing a hat-trick of European titles in the -63kg category in 2009, Décosse moved up to the -70kg weight category, immediately sealing back-to-back world titles in 2010 in Tokyo, and then in front of her home crowd in Paris in 2011. Looking ahead to her third Olympic Games, she said: “I’m happy to be training every day and waking up in the mornings saying to myself: ‘I’m going to London to try for the gold. Isn’t that great?’” The positive mantras paid off. On 1 August 2012, at the ExCel Arena, The stylish Décosse was unstoppable in her march towards the final, winning each of her bouts by ippon, and most impressively taking a mere nine seconds to dispatch Colombia’s Yuri Alvear in the quarterfinals. In the gold medal bout, she came up against the Netherlands’ Edith Bosch. The Frenchwoman was completely dominant, securing victory by three penalties and waza-ari. Overcome with emotion, she burst into tears. A few days short of her 31st birthday, the three-time World Champion and four-time European Champion had finally ended her quest for Olympic gold.