Cissé: “The mind is the key to win every match”
Cheick Sallah Cissé (Ivory Coast) is the reigning Olympic champion and 4 times Grand Prix winner. He also reigned in the African continent in 2016 and at the African Games in 2015. He has no medals at the World Taekwondo Championships, but he is here in Manchester to change that.
How are you? You are about to enter a new big competition…
I feel very good, this competition has been my first goal for the whole year, we’ve been doing a very good and hard preparation and I will give everything on the mat to be world champion.
Do you feel the pressure of being Olympic champion?
It is a big responsability, of course. I have won gold at the Olympic Games, at the Grand Prix, and now I am not just fighting for myself but also for my country, for Africa… but I know how to manage this and stay focused.
Do you feel comfortable here at Manchester Arena?
I like it here, I know some years ago the European Championships were held here and I am excited to be part of this event now.
Who do you fear to face in the Men’s -80 kg division?
No one, I am world number 1, but Khramtcov from Russia, Damon Sansum who is playing at home, the Azerbaijan representative, Jordan, Slovenia… I have respect for all of them.
Have you changed your preparation for the event?
We have been doing some special things with my coach and you are going to see it on Saturday.
After Rio 2016, are you already thinking about Tokyo 2020?
In my mind there are two competitions: the world championships and Tokyo 2020. I need to be professional, our life is difficult, so I have to be responsible and follow the right way to win another gold here and in Tokyo.
What do you expect from Africans here in Manchester?
Issoufou, Obame, Mouega, Obame… I wish them the best and I can’t say how many medals we are going to win, but it will be a good number, that is for sure.
How do you handle the tension before the fights?
I do it in a normal way, I know how to manage my feelings, for me it is easy.
Was it tough to lose early in the draw in Chelyabinsk and Muju?
Muju 2017 didn’t go well, an neither did Chelyabinsk. But I have won everyhing since then, African champion, Olympics, Grand Prix… I have a lot of experience and I think I never lose, I just learn from defeats.
How do you concentrate befor the matches?
I listen to music from my country, I have a special playlist and think about other things outside Taekwondo.
What has been the key for your success?
When you do something, you need to give everything to be the best, that’s what my father told me. You have to give everything to achieve what you want to achieve, you need to sacrifice, it is difficult, but my dream was to win an Olympic medal and become a superstar in my country and now I am. So now my goal is to win the gold medal at the world championships and I will do my best, that is for sure. And in Tokyo the same, it will always be difficult, but I will do my best.
When did you start Taekwondo?
I started karate when I was 6 and in 2000 I changed to Taekowndo because my father wanted to do it when he was young. At the beginning it was just for fun, after the school, but it helped me know how to defend myself and little by little my coach saw some talent in me.
What would you tell the kids starting in our sport?
When you are on the mat, there are only two people there. You are prepared for it, both of you have done the same training, but if you use your mind you can win anything. The mind is the key to win every match.