This week, Gwladys Epangue is in Baku, where she often competed and won. She is participating to the 2016 Grand-Prix final and the Team world championship (see below). But, this time, she will not be in Dobok. Since November 29th, nothing remains as it was.
17 years after her 1st international apparition, after 2 world titles, 3 Olympic Games ponctuated by a bronze medal, 2 World Olympic qualification tournaments won (2008 and 2012) and 7 continental medals, Gwladys Epangue bowed out at 33 years old.
As a strong symbol, it’s in the city where she won her last big international victory (the 2015 European Games), that she starts her new job as the French national team press officer.
What do we feel when we stop our career after so many years ?
(She’s thinking). I am happy. But it’s not a relief ! Taekwondo belongs to my life. This is a finish which happens at the right moment. Keep going would have been too much. I am happy to stop because it was scheduled for a long time and that is a good thing.
« It hasn’t come full circle »
What are you going to take away from all these years ?
The human adventure that I lived, the friensdships that I have found. That’s what I am going to retain above all. And, then, of course, all my titles. Victories and friendships, that’s what will be remaining.
Do you regret anything ?
Do I regret something ?… I don’t think so (she’s thinking). No, I have no regret. My path was quite unique and it allows me to be what I am today. Really, I have no regret.
Don’t the Olympic Games (3 participations, 1 bronze medal) represent a big frustration ? What is your feeling ?
I simply believe that it hasn’t come full circle. I would have loved to win all the most prestigious competitions. I missed the Olympic Games. That’s all. That’s too bad.
In the end, the most difficult is to tell myself that I will never make it. I will never achieve my goal. That’s hard for me. Well, that was hard. Now, besides 30 seconds sometimes…
Once I had decided to stop, I told myself : « Ok, listen, you will never be Olympic champion. You will never be what you woke up for during 16 years in your life ». So it is, even if never achieving your goal is really frustrating.
« On the substance, we have improved. But on the form… »
You knew some very different Taekwondo. What is your opinion about your sport’s evolution ?
On the substance, Taekwondo has really good improved. The fact that we became and then we have remained an Olympic sport is just amazing ! We just lived our 5th Games. We have succeeded in developing our sport and this evolution goes on the right direction considering the substance.
Nowadays, there are a lot less referees interventions. A lot of means are used. We have developed tournaments in all continents… I really do think that Taekwondo is an inspiring sport. We also succeeded in getting some Olympic, and even World, historical medallists !
What do you mean by « historical » medallists ?
Iran had its 1st woman Olympic medallist in its history last summer in Rio in Taekwondo. In this weight category (-57 kg), two veiled women were on the podium. The 1st African ever to be Olympic champion is a guy from Ivory Coast in Taekwondo (Cheick Cisse in 2016). A Gabonese (Anthony Obame in 2012) won the 1st olympic medal in his country’s history, a Jordanian (Ahmad Abughaush in 2016) won his country’s 1st olympic title in our sport… That’s just unbelievable ! It shows Taekwondo universality. And we have contributed a lot to the Olympic sports’ one. So, on the substance, we have improved and developed a lot.
But, on the form, years after years, I have less and less recognized my sport, at least the sport that I was passionate by at my beginning.
Are you mainly thinking about the removal of the notion of power ?
The notion of power still exists. It matters less than before but, on the other side, subjectivity has decreased. What is true is that I don’t especially like the way Taekwondo has taken those last years. It has become less explosive and is more on agility and sharp motor skills. It’s not anymore about big hits as before.
« Gentil, Negrel, Ntep, Hadi, Lopez… »
Who are the champions that really impressed you during all these years ?
Pascal Gentil, Christophe Negrel, Mamedy Doucara, Ludovic Vo, Bruno Ntep, Mickael Meloul of course. Guys such as Steven Lopez, 5 times World champion, Iran Hadi (Saei Bonehkohal, twice Olympic champion 2004 and 2008), Spanish Juan Antonio Ramos (twice World champion in 1997 and 2007). All these people impressed me a lot and made me want to be like them.
What are your projects for the future ?
Tomorrow is already today because I started to work for the French federation as the National team press officer. I am very happy of this. I studied in University in that sense. It’s just unbelievable that I could work for this federation which gave me so much. Now on, I wish to enhance the athletes of my sport.
« Glad », that means…
–1 Olympic bronze medal (2008)
–2 world champion titles (2009, 2011)
–3 European champion titles (2002, 2004, 2005).
–3 Olympic Games (2004, 2008, 2016)
–5 world medal in 3 different categories (-67 kg to +73 kg) : 2 Gold (2009, 2011), 3 Silver (2005, 2007, 2015).
–7 medal in the European championships in 4 different categories (from -55 kg to -73 kg) : Gold in 2002, 2004 and 2005, Silver in 2000, 2006 and 2008, Bronze in 2010.
–12 French National titles between 2001 and 2015 in 5 different categories (from -55 kg to +73 kg).
–17 years at the highest international level.
Her changing fortunes
2000. At 16 years old, she competes in her 1st European championships final.
2001. 1st National title.
2002. 1st European title.
2003. 3rd of the World Olympic qualification tournament. Qualified for Athens.
2004. Big desillusion ! She is eliminated as soon as the Olympic 1st round by par Italian Corsi.
2005. She is back ! 1st World final (beaten by Korean Hwang Kyung-Seon) and 3rd European title.
2007. 1st of the World Olympic qualification tournament. Qualified for the Beijing Games.
2008. Bronze medallist at the Games. She loses in ½ final against Korean Hwang Kyung-Seon in golden score.
2009. 1st World title.
2011. 2nd World title and monde et winner of the World Olympic qualification tournament. She is on the top of the world.
2012. She has to forfeit the Games. She suffered from a resurgence of a bones tuberculosis. She should stop all kind of sport activities.
2015. Unbelievable ! She is back again ! She runs her 5th World final (lost against Bianca Walkden) and wins the European Games by beating the running Olympic champion, Milica Mandic, in the final.
2016. She participes to her 3rd Olympic Games only 8 months after an ACL injury. She loses in ¼ finalagainst the futur champion, Chinese Zhen Shuyin, and then against Jackie Galloway for the Bronze.