As the Upper Austria Grand Prix is unfolding in Linz, the judo family also gather together on the other side of the world. French and Japanese Paris 2024 women representatives, including Japanese judo champion Ms Ryoko Tani, and the French ambassador to Japan joined at the French embassy in Tokyo during a beautiful ceremony.

At the heart of the discussions were France and Japan’s friendship, the Tokyo2020 to Paris 2024 road, judo as a tool of empowerment for women, equality between men and women at the Games and a bit of the rivalry between the two countries when it comes to the mixed team event.

Nakamura Atsuko

Ms Nakamura Atsuko, vice chair of the Japanese national team, said, "Japan and France have a special friendship. It’s a privilege to share this evening with the French judo family here at the French embassy. We celebrate International Women’s day, judo, and the success of the Paris Games."

Ms Miku Takaichi (-63kg) declared, "Clarisse is a great rival and friend. I started competing with her in 2012. We have shared a lot of memories together on and off the tatami. She is an inspiration for all of us, not just as a judoka but as a mother and woman. I hope to meet her in the final at the Paris Games."

Clarisse Agbegnenou said, "It was a great evening where they really put the spotlight on women. They made sure to only talk about us, the women's teams from both countries. They asked us what we thought about gender equality and what we would like to improve further. All the good things that have already been done were also highlighted, even if we know that there is still a long way to go. They put forward our Franco-Japanese rivalries and particularly my rivalry with Miku Tashiro, now Takaichi.

Clarisse Agbegnenou and Romand Dicko

We were able to express ourselves about what we thought of each other. I respect her enormously. She has a big heart and great wisdom even if she is my rival on the tatami. We were able to interact with students too; one in particular asked us how and where to find the motivation to move forward. We were then very happy to meet Ryoko Tamura who gave us very nice gifts. The legends were really in the spotlight. It was really very beautiful."

Clarisse Agbegnenou and Ryoko Tani née Tamura

Christophe Massina, head coach of the French women's team said, "It was a beautiful ceremony where I was able to, on this International Women's Day, address my pride in accompanying the French women's team; a team which shows the possibilities for women to be at the highest level in sport and in life in general.

Christophe Massina

We were also able to show the friendship that reigns in our sport; even if we are competitors on the tatami, we have real friendships away from it. The presence of the Japanese team this evening proves it. The two teams showed great commitment to the values of mutual aid and mutual prosperity."

While the French women's team is currently present in Japan as part of the preparation for the 2024 World Championships and the Olympic Games, the ceremony allowed everyone to come together around the values of our sport and around the promotion of women's judo, in an atmosphere where friendship between the two countries dominated. If there is an obvious sporting rivalry between France and Japan, judo shows the sport as being more than just competition. The athletes from both national teams were happy to share this special moment.

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