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Robelis Despaigne: "I dreamt of the gold medal, not the bronze one"

Robelis Despaigne: "I dreamt of the gold medal, not the bronze one"

Robelis Despaigne (Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, 9th of September 1988) was the only Cuban Taekwondo athlete to win a medal at the London 2012 Olympic Games. Despaigne, Panamerican champion of the Men’s +80 kg category in 2011, managed to get over a tough defeat against Anthony Obame in the quearter-final and showed his best level in the repechage, where he clinched the bronze, the first Olympic medal of his sporting career. 
Q. What did it mean for you to represent Cuba in the Olympics for the first time?
A. It’s the biggest achievement I’ve ever accomplished.
Q. Did you feel the Olympics are a special competition? How did you noticed that? You already had the experience of being Panamerican champion at Guadalajara 2011.
A. I noticed it was a special event because of the big devotion that all athletes showed at all time.
Q. In your Olympic debut, you had to face the Nigerian fighter Chukwumerije, bronze medallist at Beijing 2008. A tough debut that you managed to solve by 1-0. How did you feel during the combat? What was the key of your victory?
A. It was a very tense match in which none of the fighters could afford making a mistake. The key was the great training background that I had done before London, I just had to take advantage of it during the fight.
Q. In the quarter-final, Anthony Obame appears on your way to the Olympic medal. Although he was not really popular at that time, he managed to beat you by 7-6 thanks to a sudden death point. Were you surprised by his high level? What was the reason of your defeat?

Robelis Despaigne (CUB) aims a kick at Kaino Thomsen-Fuataga (SAM) during his combat for the bronze medal at London 2012

A. I wasn’t surprised by his level because we had studied him in detail before the combat. The main reason of my defeat was not being able to keep my advantage in the score, he took advantage of this and managed to go trough. In the sudden death point I made an error, I shouldn’t have spinned around.
Q. Was it really tough to lose in the extra period? I guess there’s a lot of tension in these situations.
A. Definitely, there’s a lot of tension because everything is in play. It was really tough, because when you lose, you feel like “everything I’ve been through before the Games was in vain”.
Q. After losing against Obame, your only way of winning a medal was to hope he’d reach the final. Were you confident on Obame making it to the crucial fight? How did you feel during this uncertain time?
A. To be honest, I never thought Obame could win the other fighter. Before that happened, I was really down, psychologically destroyed.
Q. Once you entered the repechage, you seemed to be very powerful and focused. In fact, you beat the representative of Samoa by 14-2 in the first round. How was that possible?
A. Sincerely, I didn’t think I was able to continue competing. But when I saw my coach’s attitude, I felt I could not let him down, so I had no other choice than winning.
Q. In the medal bronze match, your opponent, Keita from Mali, couldn’t even start the fight because of an injury. A strange way to win an Olympic bronze, isn’t it?
A. Personally I was really lloking forward to fight against him, as it meant a lot to me. It would have been the revenge of the 2009 World Championships.

Robelis Despaigne celebrates his bronze medal at London 2012 showing the Cuban flag to the spectators of the ExCel Centre

Q. At the end of the Games, you stated that you were “happy, but unsatisfied” despite of having won a bronze medal. How can you explain that?
A. Because I couldn’t achieve my dream. I dreamt of the gold medal, not the bronze one.
Q. What are main objectives in the future? What are your expectations for Puebla 2013?
A. First of all, I must recover from my injury, and in Puebla… I’d like to be among the medallists.
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