With the swagger of a small town, the French Steven Da Costa wins ephemeral gold in karate – .

With the swagger of a small town, the French Steven Da Costa wins ephemeral gold in karate – .

                Jeudi, Steven Da Costa, 24 ans, a remporté la première médaille d'or olympique en karaté masculin.  C'était une justification majeure pour le champion du monde 2018, mais aussi douce-amère, compte tenu des conditions de l'apparition éphémère du karaté aux Jeux.
    <p>Il y a beaucoup de choses que Steven Da Costa aurait souhaité avoir différentes concernant les débuts olympiques du karaté.  Tout d'abord, qu'elle a été assombrie par la pandémie de Covid-19.  Deuxièmement, la première apparition de l'art martial aux Jeux devrait également être la dernière, du moins pour l'instant : le Comité international olympique a décidé de l'abandonner à nouveau pour Paris 2024.

But at least one thing turned out as French karateka hoped: he walked away with gold.

On Thursday, Da Costa won the first gold medal in the Olympic men’s karate competition, beating Turkey’s Eray Samdan 5-0 in the final of the 67 kilogram kumite division.

This was a major justification for the 24-year-old, who was 2018 world champion and two-time European champion in his weight class but won a disappointing bronze medal in European competition last May.

Da Costa overcame an early defeat Thursday in Tokyo against Jordan Abdl Rahman Almasatfa and benefited from the injury retirement of the Italian Angelo Crescenzo, 2018 world champion of the 60 kilograms. Da Costa beat Kazakh Darkhan Assadilov to reach the final, where he resoundingly beat Samdan.

“Steven is someone who doesn’t stress, who always has a smile,” said sparring partner Maxime Relifox, a friend since his training days. “In front of his opponent, he shows nothing. If they score a point, he doesn’t lose his temper. He has a good head on his shoulders.

From the start, the native of Lorraine from northeastern France made it clear that he expected nothing less.

“I’m here for gold, not for silver or bronze,” he told FRANCE 24 ahead of the competition. “It would be a big disappointment not to come home with the gold. “

“I’m not in Tokyo for sightseeing,” he continued with a smile.

Karate: a family affair

In a way, Da Costa had been training for his appearance at Nippon Budokan – Japan’s iconic martial arts temple, built for the last Tokyo Olympics in 1964 – since he was a child. He and his twin brother Jesse picked it up after their older brother Logan, who was inspired to start after watching films by Bruce Lee and Jean-Claude Van Damme.

Their father Michel has since taken it over as well. While the three brothers compete together in the French karate team (if not all in Tokyo), Michel trains at the dojo in the small town of Mont-Saint-Martin, near the border with Belgium and Luxembourg, where are born his sons.

“I was born there, I grew up there, I live there,” said Da Costa, who even bought a house between his parents and his brother Logan. “My life is here. “

<div class="m-em-image">
In Da Costa's hometown, a banner with his photo hangs on the town hall.
In Da Costa’s hometown, a banner with his photo hangs on the town hall. © Town Hall of Mont Saint Martin
    </div>Pendant sept années de formation, cependant, les compétences de karaté de Da Costa l'ont emmené loin de chez lui et en région parisienne, où il a commencé à s'entraîner à un niveau élevé dès l'âge de 15 ans. Il a partagé son temps entre le lycée et un centre national de formation sportive à la banlieue de Châtenay-Malabry, juste au sud de la capitale, dans ce qu'il qualifie de régime très exigeant.

“It’s exhausting,” he said. “You come home from class, you have practice … [and] the whole France team trains there.

As exhilarating as it may be, he said he was “a little reluctant” to be there and went home every weekend before finally coming back.

“When you’re young you think it’s the best thing, but then I got to an age where I could have the same conditions at home,” said Da Costa.

<div class="m-em-image">
Da Costa is training in his garden in Mont-Saint-Martin, France, in May 2020.
Da Costa is training in his garden in Mont-Saint-Martin, France, in May 2020. © Franck Fife, AFP / File
    </div>Bien qu'il soit l'un des meilleurs au monde dans sa discipline, Da Costa pense déjà au-delà de sa carrière de karaté.  Dans le cadre d'un programme destiné à soutenir les sportifs de haut niveau, il travaille environ une journée par semaine comme agent de gare pour la ligne de train de banlieue parisienne.  Lorsqu'il quitte la compétition, il est assuré du poste à temps plein.  

Bittersweet Olympics

For now, however, Da Costa has no plans to stop.

With two European titles and a world championship to his credit, he was the first French karateka to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics in February 2020, putting the ultimate title – Olympic gold – within reach.

Then the pandemic struck, delaying the Games for a year. The return to competition, and especially the trip to Tokyo, was bittersweet, as Da Costa’s karate loving family couldn’t be there with him.

“It’s a shame that my parents can’t be in Tokyo,” he told FRANCE 24 before his departure. “It takes away the joy, because they follow us everywhere and they won’t be able to be there for the biggest challenge of my career. “

He had hoped his brother Logan could join him for the Games, but the elder Da Costa failed to qualify. His brother Jesse, however, was able to follow along as a training partner for the final days of training, before returning to France to watch Steven compete from his hometown with the rest of the family.

Perhaps more than the empty stands, Steven Da Costa regrets that karate was such a brief moment in the Olympic spotlight.

“To become the first Olympic medalist in karate would be good, but to be the last one is ugly,” he said, before his victory. “We haven’t been given any explanation as to why karate isn’t coming back. It is one of the most popular sports in the world.

“We will return to the shadows,” he added, in an interview with AFP in Tokyo. “It used to be like that and that was all we knew. Now it’s like giving us a lollipop and taking it away.

Yet Da Costa prefers not to dwell on the negative. Before even winning his medal, he was too busy training. And it paid off.

He also hasn’t given up on his dreams of another Olympic gold medal.

“I hope after seeing this they can still change their mind,” he said. noted of the organizers of Paris 2024 in the moments after winning the medal.

Da Costa’s victory on Thursday brought France their seventh gold, for a total of 27 medals in Tokyo so far. If there are more, they will likely come from team sports, including handball, indoor volleyball and basketball, where the France men’s team will face the United States on Saturday in what is to come. like a thrilling revenge. Maybe they can channel their karate colleague’s confidence a bit.

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