France has not yet won an Olympic gold medal. Thus, the goal was clearly stated before coming to Rio. The biggest chance for the French team is Haby Niare, 2013 world champion and 2016 world n°1.
The French athlete won her 1/2 final against Turkish Nur Tatar, thanks to a stroke of genius : a Nelyo Tchagui (hammer kick) struck during the Golden score. But she then lost a crazy final (13-12) against the -73 kg running world champion, Korean Oh Hyeri. After each fight, Mehdi Bensafi gave his feelings and analysis. An instructive flashback.
« Her approach in the final, it was a 50-50 shot »
Haby Niare just lost the Olympic final. How do you live this defeat ?
I feel distressed. It’s a great disappointment in a sense that we came to Rio to seek something we still don’t get, the Olympic gold medal. After her 2 first fights, she was able to do a total reset. We acted as it was another day considering that there were 5 hours between the 2 fights.
She was able to re-mobilize herself to do what she does best : act and fight as the boss. On this particular point, she did very well in the ½ final. But, during the final, she twice skips the strategy. She made two mistakes that cost 2 times 3 points. Do the math… It costs an Olympic gold medal (she lost 13-12).
Are you upset ?
I am talking as a coach. We established a framework. It has to be followed. Of course, we can take initiatives. I am not someone who wants to curb athletes, to get over their instinct. But, in this case, it cost a lot. Just imagine. You are at full speed. Once you get off the tracks, it can quickly go nipples. That’s what clearly happened.
Haby played a game. At hand to hand, the Korean is very strong, Haby too. And, by the way, she scored by doing so (on the 1st round thanks to a Fulyo Tchagui or « Scorpion Kick », and then, on the 3rd one, with a Tit Tchagui, straight spinning kick). But, her approach was it was a 50-50 shot. And, for us, the coaches, a 50-50 shot is too risky. She should keep her distance and work as she begun to do.
« Our job : to offer solutions to get a 70-30 shot »
Are you mad at her ?
I will never blame Haby because we must shoulder our responsabilities and that’s what she did, but it aimed to lose a gold medal. If I tell you to jump and you may die, or maybe not… No one will take the risk. Our job, as a coach, is to offer solutions to get a 70-30 shot.
Is that what happened in the semi-final ? Did Haby follow to the letter your tactical instructions ?
Yes. Tatar Nur had become her pet peeve. With Myriam (Baverel), we set up a new strategy we tested in the last European championships (in May). It almost worked (Haby Niare lost at the golden score). We tested it again in Rio, with a few ameliorations.
The idea was to neutralize the Turkish on her strengths. That’s what Haby did. However, it looked like a “no match”. But it had to be like this. And, then, she had to take a maximum of risks during the 3rd round or the golden score.
After this victory, I felt released because, at some point, we try to put all chances on our side. We try to build a house brick by brick. And, at that time, we were in the position to mount the roof on the Olympe.