One thing, if not many, that the French prove time and time again is that they are arguably the best crowd on the circuit. Without fail they fill arenas and today created such an atmosphere, it was one to envy the Bercy Arena.
Throughout the day, the Mexican waves travelled the stands and children breathed life in to an otherwise ageing building, then in what we saw as a technical disaster, the sound was cut. The team of the Netherlands walked out for the grand finale and all was fine, then as the French prepared to enter the field of play, silence.
If not for the admittance of error from the technical team, it could have been confused for dramatic effect. Instead it was accepted that the host team would enter the arena unaccompanied by music or an announcement, and it was made clear they needed neither.
As the athletes entered, the arena erupted, the cheers deafening and goosebumps immediately appeared. Then there was the realisation that, within this intimate environment, all the French needed was the support of their countrymen.
Local, world bronze medallist in the +78kg category Julia TOLOFUA was first to put a win on the board for France, which was then evened by a colossal ippon from current European champion, Jur SPIJKERS (NED). Priscilla GNETO (FRA) demonstrated that experience would be her ally in her contest against Shannon VAN DE MEEBERG and swiftly ended her contest with a drop seoi nage making it a 2:1 lead for France.
Benjamin AXUS (FRA) then went against Matthijs VAN HARTEN (NED). It was an extremely close contest that went in favour of the French following a score from Axus. For Van Harten, a final loss made little difference to the fact he had helped his team to the final at this prime event, especially as this is in final hurrah.
Now it may have been 3:1 at this point but the Dutch felt they could bring it back with Sanne VAN DIJKE but she simply couldn’t find her place on the tatami in this final against Margaux PINOT. A seoi nage gave Pinot the first waza ari and then a powerful, driving ko soto sent Van Dijke down for ippon, and as you can imagine, the crowd went WILD.
Coach of the women’s team was pleased with how the team worked with one another but was unsurprised by this collaboration as France already have a team and club mentality engrained in them from a young age.
Source and image: www.eju.net