150 days to go! That’s all, just 150 days until we are revelling in the mastery and enormous joy the Games always brings. It will be an incredible moment to be involved in, it always is, no replica could possibly match up! So, if we know the dates and we already know it is going to be amazing, why do we still promote it? Why is there a need?

Perhaps it is because while we promote it, we get to feel it more, be part of it for longer. Maybe it is because by promoting it we get to share it with more people and see them enjoy the ride as we do. Whatever the reason, promoting it feels good, is part of the Olympic furniture and raises the fervour in a way we like.

Clarisse Agbegnenou is not only one of the most anticipated athletes of France’s home team but she is also still an avid publicist of all that is good about both judo and the Olympic Games. She could be forgiven for hiding at this time, keeping her head down to focus only on training, but her outlook is different.

Clarisse in Paris, gold backpatch glistening under the Eiffel Tower's gaze. Photo courstesy of Gabi Juan / EJU.

“It means a lot that we have been able to come here to visit the countdown timer because the Games is coming really soon and I will be here again to celebrate my new medal soon!” The 6-time world champion and Tokyo Olympic champion smiled wryly to the camera.

“To have exact days to work towards, well, I never look at the special dates like that; I live life day by day and all my stress is around my daughter now. Once she turns two, it will all be very close and there will be a rush but now I don’t see the time passing. If I didn’t have my daughter, it would probably be different.

Now, as a mother, I’m a new woman and a new athlete. I don’t have the same body and strength and maybe even my mental condition is better. Step by step I’m finding a new Clarisse, one who is maybe not as good as before but she is ready and dangerous and I’m working towards my best level.”

Leski (SLO) and Agbegnenou (FRA) will both work hard to simply give their best on the big day. Photo courstesy of Gabi Juan / EJU.

With regard to being back in Paris this summer so soon after her gold-medal-winning performance at the February grand slam, Clarisse has further thoughts, “The crowd was amazing and really when they called my name, it was felt inside me. In the Palais it will be amazing too and although it’s not the same as the Bercy, it will still be our crowd giving their energy to me and my teammates. For the French people, judo is really at the top of the Games and so they put us at the Eiffel tower; they put us here because they believe in us.

I don’t feel pressure now. When my baby is healthy, I’m ok, it’s really that simple; judo and the Games aren’t the hardest things now. Maybe some weeks before the Games, things will escalate but with my baby, I am the happiest person ever. It’s all a plus and the medal makes it a plus, plus, plus!

Paris has this Games while I’m at the top of my sport and I would never have imagined fighting at the Olympic Games in my own country and it’s huge! Maybe now I don’t even fully realise it will be here. It’s a unique experience and we must take the time to enjoy it. Paris is always beautiful, perhaps even more than ever this summer.

The French team now is confident. Some don’t yet have their selections but it should be announced soon. It’s best for us all to know as early as possible so we can prepare but we are in good shape all the same.”

There is a lot of publicity, around the team, the event, the kudos of it all. Why is this kind of vibration necessary?

The Paris Grand Slam Mixed Team Event, 2024.

"We can look at the mixed team event we did at the grand slam with the children, this was just amazing. I could see the light in the eyes of the children. The girl with me was scared and I liked to support her; it was her dream to be with us. I saw that the girl who fought me was like ‘oh no,’ she didn’t know the secret that I would fight but she said that next time I would beat her and I said I would train for that.” This is face-to-face inspiration but everyone could see it on screen, that the power of judo is both personal and public, it is powerful both quietly and loudly. “We can have more judoka get into the sport like this. Art and culture can change the world!"

The Paris Grand Slam Mixed Team Event, 2024.

"I like to do these promotional events, whether with children on the tatami or at the countdown clock or other landmarks. I think it’s good to help the people who support us, such as the EJU or the IJF, to show that we value the support and that we believe in the work being done ahead of the Olympic Games. I am supported all the time so I must support others sometimes. It’s so nice to say thank you to the children. They stay smiling and cheering for us, so we have to thank them.

I came to the clock on a cold day because I want to promote judo. It’s what I’m doing all the time. Also, with the IJF and EJU staff who are always promoting judo, it is good to be part of that, together creating new solutions to promote the sport; this is our way to work all together for judo. It is a core part of judo: mutual benefit - jita kyeoi.”

Photo courstesy of Gabi Juan / EJU.

No-one could have said it better! So with 150 days to go, the athletes, the national, continental unions and the International Judo Federation are all pulling together in one direction, helping each other do their best. It is a pure example of jita kyoei.

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