Lucie Décosse: “We felt like something really special was going down!”
Lucie Décosse, international judo superstar, triple world champion, double Olympic medallist – a silver in Beijing in 2008 and a gold in London in 2012 – world no. 1 in two categories in a 15-year career, tells us about the emotion she experienced at the Games Opening Ceremonies in which she had the pleasure of taking part.
“For my first Games, in Athens in 2004, I was particularly stressed out, as I had to be the right weight for my category, -63 kg, and I was going to compete four days after the Opening Ceremony. But I really wanted to see it! So I was going to take part in my first parade with the French team. On that 13 August 2004 in the late afternoon, feelings were running high. We put on our official outfits and we took a photo of the French judo team. When we arrived to join the big group with all the athletes, my heart started to beat faster; you could feel that something very special was going down. In the Village we already knew that we were at the Games, but now we felt it all the more! We were so happy to be there – that’s it, we really are Olympians!”
Entering the Stadium: “absolutely enormous”“We had to wait something like 1,000 hours before entering the Stadium – that brought the mood down a bit. But we had a good laugh, and we chilled out. Then we got in line, in the corridors of the stadium, we began to warm up, and sang the national anthem: that gave me the shivers. When we walked into the Stadium, it was absolutely enormous, really huge. And the first thing I said, aged 23, was: ‘But how do they hold athletics competitions in this atmosphere, in front of such a crowd? They must be under such pressure!’ The contrast with the confined atmosphere in the judo halls was striking. It is a really big thing to do sport whilst being watched by so many people. The parade went by very quickly. We did a circuit of the track, and it seemed so quick, we waved at the crowds, and before we knew it we were in the stands to watch the end of the show. I took lots of photos, to keep memories of that very special evening.”
A unique gathering“In Beijing in 2008, I didn’t take part in the parade. I was totally focused on my competition, for which I’d come with great ambitions. But four years later in London, I was much calmer. I decided to make the most of it, as these were my last Games. And then in London, the Village was next to the Olympic Stadium, so we could walk there. I went with my teammate Anne-Sophie Mondière. Our clothing included a scarf on which I had written: “Dad, Mum, the names of the members of my family, my sisters, my grandmother…” I wanted to share everything with all my loved ones, but I knew very well they wouldn’t see the message.”
Getty Images“I was relieved compared to Athens 2004, where I’d been scared and my mood had swung between emotional and the approach of my competition. Eight years later, there was none of that. I had a great time, I was competing in five days, life was great. I really enjoyed the parade. And above all, this amazing gathering was a chance for me to meet up again with athletes whom I never usually had the chance to see… Except at the Games. Such as the captain of the French basketball team, Céline Dumerc. We knew each other from the INSEP in 1999 and we hadn’t seen each other since, but I had followed her career. With her, and many other athletes, some I’d never met, we were euphoric; we met each other, we talked, we congratulated each other, we shared in each other’s joy. In the Village, everyone has their own schedule, you train, you have your own programme. There, suddenly, we were France!”
The Usain Bolt phenomenon“At the Ceremony, I had the chance to see the scale of the Usain Bolt phenomenon. In one part of the Stadium, I saw a big mob. Dozens of athletes went up to the star to take selfies with him. I said: ‘wow!’ It was impossible for me to get near him. In any case, I had done my lap of the Olympic Stadium – I would have my memories of the 2012 Games, unlike in 2008 when I’d felt under pressure. When you’re a bit older, you tell yourself it won’t change anything, and I was so happy to have enjoyed that moment! But I don’t have any specific memories of the big show, as I wasn’t a spectator.”
Getty Images“In fact, later on I did have the chance to attend the whole shows, at the Paralympic Games, and in 2014 at the Nanjing Youth Olympic Games. But there, when you’re an athlete, you experience other emotions, it’s the only time you’re all together. You laugh, sing, and tell yourself that you’re not just there for your own sport. That’s so important.”