Les Bleues rugby sevens, cash

There were tears, during the pre-match Marseillaise, on the cheeks of Anne-Cécile Ciofani. There were tears, a quarter of an hour later, on those of Jade Ulutule. Not the same, but it is to say that it counted enormously, this Olympic rugby sevens final, for this gang of girls who firmly believed in their golden destiny, Saturday July 31 in Tokyo.

But opposite of course, revengeful New Zealanders had nothing to do with this blue dream. It was for them to wash away the affront of 2016 in Rio, when for the first appearance of the discipline at the Games, they had yielded the most beautiful medals to Australia. So, coldly, they deployed their talent, confiscated the ball, and extinguished without a blow to the tricolor hopes (12-26).

A long-term project

“The disappointment is there, of course, but we showed great values, and lived an extraordinary adventure”, commented hot the captain of the Blue, Fanny Horta. She ended her international career at 35 with a silver medal, and more than any other, she can measure how far she has come. Even if a perfect tournament so far, with a victory over Fiji in the pool (12-5), and a success against England in the semi-final (26-19), augured a royal conclusion, this second place rewards a long-term project launched by the French Rugby Federation in 2009.

Selecting players, building a group by offering 25 federal contracts in total, working extra hard after the Rio Games (concluded with a sixth place), the beautiful building has gradually been put in place under the leadership of coach David Courteix. “We have been preparing for years. It’s a group that has matured a lot, which has a lot of experience and qualities ”, praised the coach before the tournament.

Real group work

And it did indeed explode, the talent of some players, like that of Anne-Cécile Ciofani, who climbs on a podium that her parents had watched from far away in their time. His mother, a Cameroonian throwing specialist, had participated in the weight and discus events at the Seoul Games in 1988 (elimination in qualifying). His father had finished 8e of the Los Angeles Games hammer contest four years earlier. Anne-Cécile, for her part, sought a more collective adventure in rugby, and it is this conviviality that convinced her to push ever further in the discipline. “With the girls on the team, we’re almost sisters”, she summed up at the start of the tournament.

And this solidarity has indeed been reflected on the ground. Other individuals stood out, such as Séraphine Okemba, quick and punchy. But in the end, it is the collective strength and fluidity in the game of the Blues that made the difference and led them to the top. Captain Fanny Horta had set the goal before the Olympic fortnight, she who was to retire in 2020, but who continued the story a year more after the postponement of the Games to “Go to the end of things” with his comrades: “I wanted to leave with a great reward for our work”. It’s done.


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