Anne-Caroline Graffe: "I'll train hard to be the best in Rio"
Anne-Caroline Graffe (12 February 1986, Papeete, French Polynesia) decided to leave her home island of Tahiti at the age of 18 to continue with her Taekwondo training at the INSEP (National Institute of Sports and Phyisical Education, Paris). The objective of her move to France was to achieve her dream of becoming a professional Taekwondo athlete. A tough decision that has turned out to be even better than what she expected: Despite of being only 26, Graffe is the current World and European champion of the Women’s +67 kg category (Gyeongju 2011 and Manchester 2012), a brilliant track record which has been recently extended thanks to the Olympic silver medal that she won at London 2012.
Q. You didn’t have much time to get ready for London as you were chosen to replace Gwladys Épangue only one month before the start of the competition. What were you doing when you were told you were finally going to London? How did you react?
A. Participating in the Olympics was my dream, but earning my place like these… I was very sorry for my team mate Gwladys. I was in my room when a journalist called me to get my first reaction. I lost in my mind, I thought “It’s impossible!” After, I had a long chat with my coach Myriam Baverel. We talked about how we were going to organize everything: trainings, media interviews, etc. After talking with my coach I felt confident.
Q. Were you confident on winning a medal after such a short notice?
A. I had the best coaches in the world and France has one of the best Taekwondo teams in the world. I knew that if I managed to stay focused and did my job I could win.
Q. Before Épangue’s injury, you weren’t part of the French squad for London. How did you feel about it? You were already World and European champion…
A. There is only one problem in France: we have too many good fighters and only two places for the Olympics! In every category, we had girls who could reach the podium. So selections are difficult. That’s the game!
Q. How does it feel to be the first Polynesian to win a medal for France at the Olympic Games?
A. You can not imagine how proud of my achievement are the people in Polynesia. I left my island ten years ago to live my sport dreams. I’m proud of what I’ve realized.
Q. Tell us a bit about the competition. Were you nervous during your first match against Mamatova? It was your Olympic debut.
A. I was a bit more nervous than usual during the competition. I needed to prove to myself and to the other fighters that I was strong and ready for this Olympic day. That’s why the first fight was so intense. I’m a tactical fighter, but in this fight I was really tense, it was only actions and reactions. A hard debut, no doubt about it!
Q. What did you feel when you beat Hernández? You had already guaranteed an Olympic medal.
A. I didn’t think about having guaranteed the silver medal not even for a second. I really wanted to win! I had everything: the physical condition, the technique and the mental strength. Winning the semi-final meant nothing to me at that time. I wanted the gold!
Q. What happened in the final against Mandic? Do you reproach yourself anything?
A. Stress caught me in the worst moment, during the final. While I was fighting, I was telling myself “don’t make a mistake. Be careful, she has a good tolio chagui”. My desire to win transformed into fear of losing and I’m sure that’s why I lost. That’s my only regret.
Q. Did the people in Tahiti follow your matches at the Olympics?
A. The entire island watched my matches. It was crazy! They didn’t sleep all night long just to support me. Some people told me that during the final there was a power outage on half of the island. So half of the island could not follow the final. They said I lost because I lost half of Tahitian power…
Q. World champion, European champion… but Olympic silver medallist. Are you going for the gold in Rio 2016?
A. Of course! I’ll train hard to be the best in Rio! I want to win everything!
Q. What would you like to do in the future? Would you like to be linked to Taekwondo?
A. I don’t know yet, but Taekwondo is my passion so…
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