Double Olympic champion Didier Dinart credits handball with steering him from being an angry child in Guadeloupe to the top of the Olympic podium with France and onwards to become a national coach and mentor.
Dinart is the subject of an Olympic Channel episode of Legends Live On, which also features double Olympic gymnastics champion Svetlana Khorkina; Pieter van den Hoogenband, who won three titles in the pool; six-time fencing champion Valentina Vezzali; and Las Ninas de Oro, winners of the rhythmic gymnastics team title at the Olympic Games Atlanta 1996.
Dinart was born and raised by his mother in Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe, where he took his first steps in handball, initially as a left back-court player, before anger drove him into defence, a place others did not want to be and one where he found success, contentment and identity in the long and short term.
After moving to France as a teenager, Dinart worked his way on to the national team that reached the quarter-finals at Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004 where defeat to Russia was so crushing that Dinart vowed it would be the team’s “duty, obligation and mission” to return for the ultimate prize four years later in Beijing.
They edged Croatia in the semi-final, with former captain Ivano Balic describing Dinart as “the general of the France defence”, before beating Iceland 28-23 to become Olympic champions. It was, said Dinart, “glorious. The Holy Grail. Magnificent”.
The team were nicknamed “Les Experts” and at London 2012 Dinart was a colossus in defence as France defeated Sweden 22-21 to claim a second successive Olympic title.
But his Olympic days were not over as, two years after being appointed head coach of the France men’s team, Dinart guided them to a third successive final at Rio 2016 although it was opponents Denmark who stood on the top step that time following a two-point victory.
While Dinart attempts to guide France to Tokyo 2020, he is also very committed to honouring where it all began, lending his name to the Didier Dinart Sports Arena in Basse-Terre, Guadeloupe.
There he spends time inspiring youngsters to fulfil their potential and helps guide them to a future in the sport that moulded him as both athlete and man.
He said: “Today I can really be a mentor to young Guadeloupians. I love helping them. Sports offered a way for me to be somebody. I threw myself into it and experienced the greatest sensations a top athlete could feel.”