Romain, in what state of mind are you approaching this European Championship in Montpellier? Romain Valadier Picard: Physically, I’m good. I have no problems, I am well rested. Mentally, I feel ready. I trained well this summer. Now, I will have to respond on the big day and give the maximum of what I can give.

Do you have the feeling that this European Championship already marks, in a way, the start of the Olympic Games? No, the European Championship is not the Games. Let’s say that it will just be a taste because already, it will be in France, so in terms of atmosphere, it should be similar. At least I hope so… It is also a more than important step in the race for Olympic qualification (there is only one French person qualified per weight category). At these European Championships, it is Luka (Mkheidze) and I who are selected to represent France. But obviously, there are others behind us who remain completely in the race. So for me, this European Championship is an opportunity to make an impression.

A priori, Luka Mkheidze is in front of you today in the minds of the selectors. Do you think you will be able to reverse the trend between now and the announcement of the final selection, during the month of April? Yes, it is certain that today, Luka is ahead with his medal of bronze during the last Games in Tokyo in 2021. Afterwards, in judo, everything changes very quickly. Luka is a very good example since six months before the last Games, he was not qualified. We know that the selectors’ objective is simple: to field the best judoka of the moment. For a long time, for me, the Games were just a distant dream. Today I think why not me? In any case, I train hard for this. And then if 2024 arrives too early for me, then this work could be useful to me for the next World Championships or for the 2028 Games.

On a human level, how do you manage this competition with others? So far, I find that in our category, the competition is rather healthy. In less than 60kg, we really have a good density, in particular because of this competition which pushes us all to progress and move forward. Obviously, it’s annoying because we all want to make the Games and there will only be one chosen one. But whether it’s Luka, Cédric Revol, Romaric Bouda, Théo Raoul Hebrard or me, there is a real demand for performance which helps us on a sporting level. And on a human level, off the mat, we are not enemies.

Is friendship possible in such a context? I don’t know if we can be great friends, but it’s not war.

What are you doing so that this competition does not consume too much energy on a daily basis because the goal will still be to arrive fresh at the Games? My perspective is to concentrate on myself, not on others. In a competition, my goal is not to do better than the other French people, but to do the best I can. I don’t worry about others.

Does the success of the French women’s team excite you? Do you sometimes get tired of us only talking about them? It’s true that there are very many of them performing at a high international level. It’s not humiliating, but we would also like to be in the spotlight. We also train very hard. I feel like we train even harder than the girls. But obviously, if we want a little light for ourselves too, we have to get on podiums. In the major championships, that’s where the problem lies because we haven’t had many medals in recent years. But at the Grand Slams, we are winning more and more medals. Now we have to take a step forward and achieve these podiums in major championships.