Shirine, in what state of mind are you approaching this European Championship? Shirine Boukli: Already, I am very proud to participate, especially in Montpellier, in France. It’s a bit like home… So, I can’t wait.
Do you remember where you were in 2014, during the previous European Championship organized in Montpellier? So I was a dispatch rider (laughs). I carried the boxes of the champions who participated. I remember Automne Pavia, Teddy Riner, Clarisse (Agbégnénou), Pénélope Bonna, all those people… I spent several days there as a volunteer and it was really nice. I told myself that maybe one day I would be in their place, without telling myself that it would be in the same place, for the same competition. You say it to yourself without really saying it to yourself in a way. I was 15, still young and still with everything to do. I loved this experience.
For you, is it an added pressure to play at home? No, it's just happiness. I don't feel any particular pressure, other than the positive pressure of aiming for a third European title, this one at home. It would be so beautiful. I know that there will be all my family in the stands who will be there to give me strength, and there is this little thing, when we play in France, of having this little extra strength. I can't wait to experience it.
Do you see this European Championship as a rehearsal for future Games in Paris, even if the venue is different? Of course. This is what I have said from the start, that I want to experience this European Championship to experience in miniature what awaits us at the Olympic Games. It's a little experience test before the Games, which will be interesting. And potentially, this can send a message to my opponents by showing them that at home, I will be difficult to beat.
What did your title of vice-world champion last spring change for you? I would say it didn't change much, other than having a little more confidence in myself. I have more experience too. This medal rewarded all the work I had put in, and it confirmed to me that the choices I had made were the right ones. This competition in Doha allowed me to continue to know myself better. The learning continues, it was a great medal and it's up to me to continue until Paris. I'm on track for the Games.
Does the internal competition with Blandine Pont to obtain the only ticket for Paris 2024 in your under 48kg category constitute pressure? No, I'm not particularly thinking about it. Today, we are each doing our own little thing. I have my goals, and thinking about my competitor isn't one of them. And then I consider that this competition pushes me more than anything else. It's an evil for a good. But really, I don't have time to think about it. So much happens every week...
How do you keep this competition from polluting your mind? I'm used to it. In the French team, we know that there are a lot of girls who are performing well.
In the eyes of Christophe Massina (the manager of the French women's team), there was a before and after for you at the Tashkent World Championship in 2022. He affirms that your defeat in the 3rd round forced you to take your destiny in hands...Yes, it's true. Concretely, after this failure, I made the decision to leave Insep for physical preparation. For training, there's no problem, I'm here. But for my physical preparation, I wanted to do even more individualized work, so I left with my club. And for the technique, I stayed with Séverine (Vandenhende). I wanted to change a lot of things about the way I trained because I felt that there were certain aspects that didn't suit me. At certain levels, I needed more specific work and to clear my mind, to get out of the framework of Insep. I'm sure if I want to see even higher, I need this. And then I made this choice before the Masters in Jerusalem, which I won behind, so there was no reason to go back on it.
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