For decades, Belgium has produced champions with impressive regularity. One of these champions is Charline Van Snick who has just announced her official retirement from sport. The Olympic (London 2012) and world (Rio 2013) medallist therefore decided to end her competitive life to open a new chapter.

“It’s a somewhat special day for me, since I have decided to turn the last page of my career as a professional sportswoman, to write a new book,” she announced at a press conference on 6th February at the press house in Liège.

“It was at the age of 7 that I climbed onto a tatami for the first time, thus beginning an adventure that would define an important part of my life. I put on my first competitive judogi when I was 8 years old. It was the prelude to a total devotion to judo. Beyond a simple sport, judo became my way of life, my passion.

Charline Van Snick at the Ecole Soumagne - © Geoffrey Meuli Photography

My journey has been marked by successes and challenges, of defeats, of victories, of fabulous moments. Each medal is a story in itself, the fruit of personal work but also of formidable teams, the fruit of sacrifices. But it’s like giving birth, it seems, we immediately forget the suffering because the joy brought by the baby medal is so intense.”

The statistics speak for Charline Van Snick. Among all Belgian athletes, she ranks third, just behind Ilse Heylen and Ulla Werbrouck, in number of medals won at major international events and first if only IJF events are taken into consideration.

The day after the Tokyo 2020 Games, Charline still had hope and the desire to continue, but life took a different turn. “I now want to put my experience at the service of my sport and society. It will take courage. I want to do something beautiful with my stigmata. I already have projects in mind that I would like to implement. Managing the careers of all high-level athletes requires a personalised and informed approach. We are not performance machines; we are humans, full of strength, of course, because we have worked hard at it since our childhood, but we are fallible."

World Campionships Doha 2023

Charline now wants to work for sport in general and judo in particular, serving the cause of athletes and sportswomen specifically. "Since judo is a martial art, it is like art, it transcends medals and diplomas. It changes us, as it changes our relationship to the world. This discipline has offered me a unique intellectual and creative freedom, nourished by encounters with other athletes, and even artists. The similarities between the artistic and sporting journeys are striking. We are subject to judgments, to doubts, but also to unique moments of satisfaction when we have the feeling of touching the sublime, after years of hard work.

© Geoffrey Meuli Photography

Victories, whether artistic or sporting, are the fruit of a path made of intelligence, self-sacrifice, will, doubts, determination, failures and successes. The confrontation with oneself, with the adversary generates stress, doubts, but also adrenaline which serves as a driving force. Moments of recognition and success are followed by the need to return to work, to continue to explore new techniques or to challenge your physical and mental limits, to get out of your comfort zone. By placing myself at the centre of my story, I wish to share my trials as a source of inspiration and help for others."

We wish a great new adventure to Charline Van Snick whom for sure we will meet again on the tatami.

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