Interview

Annabelle Euranie (FRA)

THE COMEBACK QUEEN 

How the soft-spoken and genteel Anabelle Euranie started scripting her comeback story that peaked with her golden turn in the -52 kg category in Abu Dhabi.

 

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates: “There is a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde syndrome in me,” laughs Anabelle Euranie a day after winning the gold medal in the -52 kg category at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam. She is like the main protagonists from R.L. Stevenson’s classic indeed, shy and unassuming off the mat, and a completely aggressive personality on it.

 

On day 1 of competition, Euranie surprised some with her gold medal winning turn on the tatami but not herself. Ever since she made her comeback from retirement early last year Euranie has been steady with her results, only finishing outside the top 5 in 5 of the 16 tournaments that she has participated in.

 

“I am glad that I have proved that I was able to come back strong from my retirement and even more important was to prove it to myself,” says the Frenchwoman. She retired from active judo in 2007 and soon afterwards became a mother of 2 boys. One would think that the challenges of motherhood would have been enough for an exciting life but Euranie felt that something was missing.

 

“I was bored at home and was looking for an activity to engage in. I soon realized that I loved competing and was missing the thrill of competition,” she says while explaining the desire behind getting back to the grind. It was not an easy decision to take as it meant staying away from Lorik and Anton, her 2 sons, aged 4 and 3 years respectively.

 

Annabelle Euranie against  Kim Mi-Ri (KOR) during the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam

 

“The prize money that I win at events such as the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam help as I have the possibility of buying more gifts for my sons to make up for my absence from home,” jokes Euranie while her partner and club coach, Bastien Puget looks on. Puget admits that it is a double blow for their sons as he also has to travel with her sometimes on the tour. However, it is motherhood itself that has given her the strength to overcome tough situations and steel herself.

 

“Being a mother has helped me to cope with difficult situations in competition as I think that I am able to prioritise better now. If there is a tough match or a loss, I think about being a mother and realise that there are few conditions more important than being a good mother,” says Euranie.

 

7 years is a long time in which to return to sport and compete at the very highest level. According to Euranie, judo has changed in this time and there is greater emphasis on having a good attitude now than 10 years ago. In her own words she is more tactical, disciplined and organised, qualities that she lacked in her younger days when she was more aggressive and impetuous when it came to competition. “I am able to retain much better now than in the past as I am a lot more mature and obviously motherhood has helped with this as well,” offers Euranie by way of further explanation on how she feels she is a better judoka now than in the past.

 

Annabelle Euranie tops the medal podium in Abu Dhabi

 

Another aspect where time has changed Euranie and her relationship vis-à-vis the sport is her competition in the field. A lot of faces she used to regularly compete with in her first stint as a judoka have moved on to coaching and other roles. It is a situation that sits easily with her as she has gone from ‘being the baby of the field to being the mummy of the category’.

 

The Olympics in Rio are high on her list of priorities as she looks ahead to life after Abu Dhabi. “I need to get as many qualification points as possible to get a good seeding,” as she says that Olympic qualification is not something that she is worried about as she is sure she will be there. She even half-jokingly suggests that she would love for the Games to be organised in Abu Dhabi, a city where she has been very successful and a place that she loves returning to. It’s a wish that seems unlikely to be realized but she can be sure of support from local judo fans considering the warm applause she received when she shone in the spotlight at the IPIC Arena.

 

Photos © IJF media by Gabriela Sabau

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