The heat and the absence of traffic were the first thing I noticed after landing in Japan. The first is normal but the second is not. That was my first contact with some strange, atypical, almost extravagant Olympic Games. The Budokan still exuded a contagious mystique, even empty, probably all the more so because the silence was eerie; a silence broken every day at 11:00am with a single word: hajime.
Clarisse Agbegnenou

I have not yet processed the totality of what happened because there were too many details, too many intra-stories but I have managed to highlight some facts that, for me, constitute the skeleton of an ultimately monumental competition. 

I underline, for example, Kosovo's timeliness with history. Two gold medals, as a transmission belt between Rio and Tokyo, the enthronement of the small country among the largest. Or the announced consecration of the Abe family, the tears of Uta and the serenity of Hifumi. Being programmed to win doesn't mean achieving it and successfully enduring enormous pressure at such a young age deserves the utmost respect. 

I also underline the language revolution. Clarisse Agbegnenou is a sympathetic, elegant, personable and easy-going dictator. She's so classy that no one cares that she's eliminated any hint of insurgency. She is the empress of judo of her own free will and enjoys massive support for her outspoken nature. The one who was the flag bearer for France is a flag woman and to see her with two gold medals is to know that, from time to time, fate is also fair. 

Saeid Mollaei in blue judogi

I remember Saeid Mollaei with special fondness. It has been two years of anguish, fear, doubts and uncertainty. Mollaei is the friend who lives on the wire, for whom you have to keep an eye out, just in case, so that he focuses on his work and does not come out of his bubble. It is not easy when a regime seeks to destroy your reputation. His silver, his tears and his grateful smile have the sweet taste of the deserved reward, the one that life owed him and that he knew how to grasp and never let go of again because it was the medal of freedom. 

I underline the anarchy of the Georgians, whose team is like an ACDC concert without a security service. An organised chaos with an exceptional final result and an Olympic champion, Lasha Bekauri, a young prodigy from an imperishable school. 

I cannot forget the tears of Margaux Pinot, her failure in the individual tournament and her ordeal in the team competition, until her resurrection in the form of uchi-mata, when France had already packed their bags. That victory in extremis kept her team alive. 

I underline Idalys Ortíz and her fourth Olympic medal, her magnificent opposition to the new batches, her simplicity and her warm words after each fight. 

Lukas Krpalek

As I also keep in my retina the liberating ippon of Lukas Krpalek and his appointment with Olympus. Two consecutive gold medals in two different categories, especially in that of Teddy Riner. The Frenchman also haunts my head, with his unexpected defeat and his reappearance 24 hours later. The bronze was the trigger for a change in behavior because the Riner that I saw in the team competition is the one we all want to admire, surrendered to the cause, committed, integrated into a collective. Perhaps it is his most beautiful victory because he moved away from everything he is used to, because for once he depended on others. Pinot was there to remind him. 

I underline the prodigious Japanese team, their record of medals and their defeat in the final of the team tournament against a France unleashed, in what was the best example of what sport is and should be, the sum of work and will and where no victory is assured in advance. 

There are a tonne of images in my brain's pantry waiting for a cold scan, with the pulsations at rest. The agony of Sherazadishvili in the corridors of the Budokan, the Israeli effervescence, the victory of a refugee, the absence of the public and above all, the non-appearance of Covid. That deserves another gold medal for everyone. 

Above all, I remember the desire to start over when it was all over. 

Teddy Riner in white judogi
See also