“You have to perform a lot to be seen”
This is a first. The women and men will share the Paris International Challenge stage at the Stade Pierre-de-Coubertin from Thursday. A chance to see world champion Ysaora Thibus in action this summer. Ahead of the parity issue, the 31-year-old foil master, who met at Insep on Friday, praises this “great innovation” that allows for enthusiasm but sees more.
What is the next step?
To be able to organize 100% female competitions at the same level in terms of organization. Media coverage is also a subject close to my heart. Fencing, of course, is not football, but when it comes to investments, men’s competitions are preferred. According to UNESCO, only 20% of sports broadcasts are given to women and 4% of media coverage. You have to do a lot to be seen. And when you are, the shooting windows are shorter.
It is changing, but we can still do better and not give up on this idea of equality.
From the outside, one gets the impression that fencing suffers less from this dichotomy. Cheating?
In less visible sports, the differences are perhaps even less apparent. Laura Flessel has also done a lot for fencing. But for later generations, highlighting women was not always easy. And then even structurally parity does not exist. Just coaches. For the first time, I have a wife for physical training. It’s still very much a man’s world. It is changing, but we can still do better and not give up on this idea of equality. As for sexism, it still exists in sports.
But if we take, for example, football, is it logical that women and men are not placed in the same boat because of their economy?
As there is an economic stake, there are rational reasons for disagreement. Not to compare, but to say that in all cases it had to be deconstructed. We start from a distance: a priori that we can compete and have an audience. What we have proven is that with substantial and long-term investments, the results are convincing: it can give birth to a new sport that is attractive and profitable. The new generation is increasingly keen to see women from diverse backgrounds and in something other than traditional sports.
We saw sports only through the prism of victory or the undefeated champion
You launched the EssentiElles platform to discuss the topics that matter to you in 2020. Did any of the themes surprise you?
Although it focused on women, the idea came from my impression that we only look at sports through the prism of victory or the undefeated champion. But that was not my experience as an athlete. Mine was that it takes a lot of defeat, questioning, doubt to win… I talked a lot about mental health. Many athletes had no place to talk about the obstacles they faced.
What kind of speaker do you dream of owning?
I admire Naomi Osaka, especially for the issues she advocates, and it would be an honor. It was my great privilege to interview Allyson Felix. We talked a lot about failure while he was winning a lot.
I didn’t want to wait until I was done with my career to try to pass
Is traditional media not addressing these issues enough?
Too often, athletes are placed in boxes as if they can’t refer to anything other than their performance. I believe they can deliver inspirational messages. While living in the United States, I saw that athletes have this place in society, that they have a responsibility to be the people who make things happen outside of their fields of activity.
Do we not have a sports culture in France?
That’s exactly how it is. I tried to build bridges with EssentiElles. In the sports moment, we summarize the sport a little. But young people can take inspiration from it. I didn’t want to wait until I was done with my career to try to pass. It is often said that the only way to be successful is to focus on sports. Me, it wasn’t my way. I found myself doing side things that helped me grow and perform