Mother’s Day: Clarisse Agbegnenou, France judo star, wins world title after 2022 childbirth
Clarisse Agbégnénou cemented herself as one of the host nation’s biggest gold-medal hopes for the 2024 Paris Games by winning her sixth world judo title, returning to the top of the sport 11 months after having daughter Athena.
Agbégnénou, 30, beat Slovenian Andreja Leški in Wednesday’s 63kg final in Doha.
“It is really for [Athena],” Agbégnénou said. “For days, I said, ‘I’m going to bring you the gold medal.’ Or, at least, ‘I’m going to bring you a medal. I want to put this on your neck.’ Now I can finally do it.”
Agbégnénou prevailed with Athena in attendance. She held her daughter while waiting for the medal ceremony. She made the cover of French sports daily L’Equipe.
“I can say that I am stronger than before,” she said before worlds. “The pregnancy, giving birth, all of this makes you strong. I’m focusing on how she can say, ‘Oh she’s my mom, and she is strong, and I want to be like her.’”
France won more medals in judo (eight) than any other sport at the Tokyo Olympics. Agbégnénou was the lone French athlete across all sports to win multiple golds in Tokyo, taking the 63kg title and being part of the victorious mixed-gender team in that event’s Olympic debut.
After June childbirth, she returned to international judo for a Grand Slam in February. She placed seventh, marking the first time she missed the podium of a top-level global event since 2012. That was her lone competition before worlds.
“I was not in shape,” she said. “I am in shape [now], but I missed some stuff. So I was like, OK, I can get a medal, but winning, it’s going to be complicated.”
Agbégnénou is now one shy of the women’s record of seven world judo titles shared by Japan’s Ryōko Tani and China’s Tong Wen.
Frenchman Teddy Riner holds the overall record of 10 world titles and goes for No. 11 on Saturday.
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