World number one, world champion, already an Olympic medallist and with her ticket to the 2024 Games already sealed, Romane Dicko (FRA) continues to fight and to push herself even when it seems that most of her work is done.

After winning gold at her last 4 events (Masters, Europeans, Paris and Baku), she could have been forgiven for taking a break. “We wanted to do a big block of competitions before the Olympics,” she says. Heavyweights can have a different approach from the lightweights, strength training and recovery perhaps being a greater priority than weight management. This can affect the planning, of course.

Winning gold at the World Judo Masters, 2023.

“So now some rest! Two in a row was hard. I don’t have to cut weight but I choose to cut just a little to prepare my brain and feel more agile and ready."

What does life look like in the months ahead? There must be risks, the possible effects of pressure? “We head to Japan in a few days to collect a high volume of randori. Then I will do another block of physical training. Paris is still 5 months away and I have time to get better and better. I’m on my way.

Romane Dicko heading into the final of the Baku Grand Slam with coach Severine Vandenhende, Olympic champion.

It’s a very special team to be part of, with these girls, it’s amazing to be with them. I almost can’t explain the feeling but I think people can see we are good together.

Emma Saudrais is my main training partner at INSEP. Training with her is special because she is also my friend. It was hard to come back at the European Championships after the worlds but Emma and my team are there to tell me it will all be ok. Judo is hard but being with friends by your side is so important. The whole team wants to work and train and look after each other. It’s a big plus.”

Post-Baku, Dicko’s plan is clear. She has no more competitions in the immediate pipeline. Her team is doing what needs to be done and she is gearing up for possibly the biggest day of her life.

Dicko won in Paris in February and hopes to repeat that feeling this coming summer.
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