Clarisse Agbegnenou is more than a name in the statistics of international judo. Still active, she is one of the greatest champions in the history of the sport with five world titles to her name so far. As if that weren't enough, while she is finalising her preparation for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, she is involved in many different projects that have her love of sharing in common. The most recent is her book, 'Fight to be Yourself - The Advice of a Champion,’ published by Rageot. While focusing on training, she is still happy to speak about this beautiful project.

"The publishing house contacted me a few months ago because they wanted to tell my story. They explained to me that I had something to contribute. Frankly, I was a little surprised because I had told myself that ultimately my life was not as exciting as it seemed but at the height of my 28 years I also realised, after a lot of introspection and especially by looking back a little, that I had accomplished beautiful things that deserved to be shared.

Very quickly, with my friend and agent Nadia, we got down to work, accompanied by the publishing house. We did a lot of videoconferences to determine what I can say and comment on. Each time, in sessions of two or three hours, we advanced. I also had to ask those around me because I couldn't remember everything and I needed their help to complete my story.

I had to go deep into every moment that I lived, especially the most difficult ones. It's never easy to face your own failures, but then I realised that these are the moments I learned to bounce back.

It all went really fast in the end, as we started the information gathering and writing work from the World Judo Masters in Doha in January and the book is now ready for release on 7th July. I can tell that the pace was like extreme sport.” Clarisse laughs. 

“For me the book was an interesting and important medium. I'm not good with dates, I tend to forget, but now with this I remember everything, I have everything at hand. I really had to force myself sometimes to find traces of my life and I realise it is important to remember.

It is a strong message for young people. Through this book, I want them to understand that anything is possible and that with effort, we can do great things. Everyone has their life’s course to contend with, but in the end we can get by. I am mostly speaking to young people now but I also hope to be able to address a much wider audience, including parents and teachers. I want this work to be part of a real educational process.

Now that the book is about to be released, I would unpretentiously like readers to remember that a lot of people go through the same phases of life that have been mine. I would like them to say to themselves that even when you have ease, you must always work, that you must not let your life be dictated. Often the children are stored in boxes, as I was sometimes, but by giving ourselves the means to do so, we can do great things.

The book will be published in French, but I dream that it can also appear in English at least, even in Spanish, to reach even more people. Athletes from other countries have already asked me this question and I think that it would be a good thing.

For the moment I have no other writing projects because my ultimate goal as I speak is the Olympic Games, but you never know! I enjoyed working on this project.

You know, in my culture, I have learned not to talk much about myself. What is behind is behind. But I can say that I am proud of what I have accomplished. Without this book, no-one would know. I am sometimes told that everything seems easy with me, that I am good but this whole journey was not without suffering. I don't like to focus on defeats and my goal is always to go further, higher, faster. I was not always helped and I make mistakes and bad choices but in the end they built me as I am today."

It's hard not to think about all this when listening to Clarisse. The five-time world champion has a lot to say and share but for the moment she must take the path of the tatami. We wish her good luck and we await the release of her book, on sale in France from 7th July and why not more globally in the future?

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