On the opening day, Judo Nice Métropole struck a blow in Pool B, winning their home match against ES Blanc Mesnil Judo thanks to a decisive point from Guerman Andreev. Renaud Carrière, coach of the Nice franchise's women's team, looks back on this performance.
How do you feel about this first victory in the competition?
I can't say I'm not satisfied! ES Blanc-Mesnil is one of the biggest clubs in France, with medal-winning fighters in every category at the French 1st division championships. They came in with a great team on paper, and we won in the end, finishing in style thanks to German. Winning like that is magnificent. The score was 2-2, whoever won the fight won the match, so frankly it's magnificent. It was at home, it was close: you couldn't ask for anything better for a first encounter.
The only negative point in all this is that we've lost Rania Drid, who broke her wrist, which is quite a blow. She's one of the best French players, so it's very complicated for us. The club's project isn't to look for judokas left and right, it's to work and progress with the people of Nice. Of the team, 90% come from here. Our policy and our desire is to have a 100% project in Nice with fighters that the club has seen grow up. I'm thinking of Loïc (editor's note: Loïc Pietri), Tizie (editor's note: Tizie Gnamien), German (editor's note: Guerman Andreev), Léa (editor's note: Léa Métrot), Florine (editor's note: Florine Soula) and others. These are all youngsters who, several years ago, were studying sport and are now part of the team.
Was it important to get off to a good start?
Absolutely, because it's a tough group. We have ES Blanc-Mesnil and Montpellier in our group. First of all, we've got to watch out for Montpellier, who really are a quality team. Then we'll have to take on ESBM at home, and that's not going to be fun either. We mustn't forget either that there's the individual season at stake, and at the same time, there could be injuries. We have to manage the INSEP weeks, competitions and rest at the same time. This deadline represents an extra burden with the adrenaline, the warm-up and the travel. All this generates fatigue: it's going to be long and complicated.
What do you think of the new Judo Pro League format?
At first, I wasn't at all thrilled when I saw it, I thought "this is crazy stuff", but in the end, I think the fighters played the game by giving it their all and taking risks. They didn't try to drag each other down, even when the fights weren't necessarily equal. The judokas were committed, which was very interesting. I found the system of 2 ippon and 4 waza-ari interesting. There were some great encounters, and the fact that there was no matte gave greater commitment, as the bouts were shorter. It all adds up to a great event.
We're going to have to get on with it now, so how do you manage the back-to-back meetings?
Yes, we're off to Montpellier on Wednesday with a big clash; I think the venue will be packed, it'll be great fun, there'll be plenty to see. After Montpellier, we'll be taking stock to see how everyone's doing, and we'll see what happens as time goes by. The aim is really to build a great team, together, and to have this mutual project to try and win this Judo Pro League. Last year, we reached the final, we didn't come far and it came down to nothing. This year, our objective is clearly to win.