‘We can be the people to beat,’ says Oumiha ahead of France Olympic qualification tournament
Like Mathieu Bauderlique and Estelle Mossely, Sofiane Oumiha will try to get through the tough French qualifying tournament in Saint-Quentin (Aisne), which is key to the Olympic qualifiers this weekend. Team Solide of the 2016 Olympics left with the pros, but are back to try their Olympic adventure, their eyes filled with the desire to glam up Paris. The athlete who won the silver medal in Rio de Janeiro does not necessarily get credit from this new formula.
Sofiane Oumiha, why did you decide to try the Olympic adventure again when you just turned professional?
This is a choice. The Olympic dream has always been a goal in my mind. This is one of my goals today. That’s why I made this choice. My professional career in the neighborhood is not over. I will try to perform with Olympians and professionals.
You’ve prepared for an 8 round pro match and now you’re down to 3 x 3 minutes. Is it complicated?
It’s not the same. Even if you remember that it’s only been a year since I turned professional, it’s not the same way of working, it’s not the same expectations. It’s complicated. We try to adapt. I haven’t lost everything either. The transition from amateur to professional was difficult, but I still managed. It is difficult to do the opposite. It’s just fun. Now it’s up to me to go look for this ‘little’ tournament in France and see what it has to offer and measure myself.
Souleymane Cissokho (injured, will not participate in the tournament) told RMC TV that when he was close to fighting for the professional title, he said that the Olympic gold in Paris was stronger than the world belt. Do you agree?
Olympic gold is sacred. The real belt also takes the pro world title. The values of Olympism will remain in our memories forever. Here, the general public gets to know us and our sport. In this respect, he is not wrong.
Did you consult other Solide team members (Mathieu Bauderlique, Estelle Mossely, Souleymane Cissokho) to try this qualification together?
Everyone on their side had this idea, this flame that was rekindled as the Olympics approached. The fact that these Olympics are held in Paris, at home, has changed many decisions. Playing the Olympic games at home is exceptional. Winning a medal in 2024 would be wonderful and historic.
Can you reassure yourself by telling yourself that you’ve been a fan for a long time?
I know the house, but this is a test. I say test, but it’s a big tournament because it qualifies you for the first tournament that selects you for the Olympics. It’s not that I’m not stressed. If it works great. If it doesn’t work out, the pro world will be open to me. I go there without pressure because I know the Olympics and that pressure.
Will you, along with other professional boxers, be the ones to beat this weekend in Saint-Quentin? Do we get the impression that many people don’t want professionals in the Olympics?
I think most people don’t want professionals. They tell themselves that professionals have no business there. I understand, yes and no. Some pros are better than amateurs and some are better than pros. We will see if the professor can beat the amateur in 3 rounds of 3 minutes. We can be the people to beat. We won medals on our side at the Olympics. We’ve been there before. Those who want to participate in the Olympics will have a great desire to defeat us. This is normal. It is up to us to take on the challenge.
What do you think of this France-France tournament formula? Brand new…
I’m not a supporter and I’m not a fan. It is good to have this tournament to see who is number 1 in France. It does not reflect the level of the opponent. You can’t measure someone in a tournament. He might be hurt or it might just not be his day. We used to go abroad, whoever went the farthest got the choice. A person who performs against the French will not necessarily perform at the international level and vice versa. It is a shame to choose only one tournament, but it is the federation that demands it.
There is a risk of not winning this tournament and being in a very unfavorable position for Olympic qualification…
That’s pretty much it. If you lose, I mean it’s over. You become number 2 and almost hope the other one misses. It becomes an unhealthy competition. You’re number 2, hoping the front one gets hurt. It used to go to the top two tournaments. Whoever won the tournament qualified for the Olympics. If you lose this weekend, you lose hope of competing in the Olympics.
Not too difficult in terms of weight? You keep changing categories…
I go back and forth. I went between 63 kilos in the Olympics, 60 kilos in the world championships, 61 kilos in the professionals and I came back there at 63 kilos. I stay in shape. Not too high. I’m back from 61 kilos quickly. It’s fine with me.
Win or lose this weekend, what will you do for your professional career?
I decide to watch after the tournament. That’s why I don’t put pressure on myself. I let the tournament play out and then I’ll make a big decision. Limit, should I stop my professional career and focus only on the Olympic quest? I am waiting for the end of this tournament to decide anything concrete. Whatever happens, I will have time to turn around. I go there and I like it.