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Nikola Karabatic: "It was not a given for me to come back in time"

2021-07-23T01:36:34.026Z

Double Olympic champion in 2008 and 2012 and silver medalist in Rio in 2016, the French handball star retains the same enthusiasm when he begins his 5th Games with a match against Argentina this Saturday (4:00 am).



Special envoy to Tokyo

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  • The full program of the Olympic Games

Nikola, how do you feel about playing your fifth Olympics?


Nikola Karabatic:

It's a lot of pride, and even more this year because I was injured a few months ago and it was not at all for me to be able to come back in time. Suddenly, there is also a lot of emotion to be there, to have the chance to participate in my fifth Games. Even if it is not only luck, but also a lot of work. Now, I saw that some in Tokyo will play their sixth or seventh Games, so I put it in perspective. That's good, but it's not a record.

Compared to your past experiences of the Games, does the health context make this edition totally different? Do you have the impression that it is still about the Games?


For now, it's okay. Ultimately, the only measurement that is really annoying is the plexiglass in the refectory. This place at the Games has always been a moment of sharing between athletes and there, this plexiglass creates a distance, necessarily takes away from the conviviality. This is the most restrictive condition in my eyes. For the rest, we have not yet started the competition, but obviously the absence of the public promises to be hard to live with in the context of the Olympic Games. For such an important competition, it will be weird.

How to find energy in front of an empty room?


It is essential to succeed in creating within the team an additional motivation, to compensate for this extra soul and this energy that an audience can bring to you. To play in front of empty stands is very difficult to understand, and I imagine it will be even more so in an Olympic context. I am sad for the newbies who will discover the Games and who will not experience this fervor for this first experience. We have to succeed in creating this energy on the bench too, with players pushing us and the few French officials there will also be.

During the three preparatory matches for these Games, you have evolved into a left-back position.

Does that suit you, you who are usually mid-center?


It's true that my position has changed, but I'm super happy to be there, in the team, and whatever role I'm given, I'm happy to be able to fill it and help my partners .

In these three friendlies, I really enjoyed playing left-back.

So I'm happy.

We also know that it is not at all the Argentina team that we faced 5-6 years ago and that we beat quite easily.

Nikola Karabatic

How do you see your first opponent, Argentina? And along with Brazil, Germany, Spain and Norway, is this the most difficult group you've experienced at the Games in your career?


We know that Argentina has a very good team, with players who know us well to play in the French championship, like Diego Simonet. Argentina also has a very good coach, Manolo Cadenas, who has managed big clubs in Europe. We also know that it is not at all the Argentina team that we faced 5-6 years ago and that we beat quite easily. This team has made good progress, it has shown that it is capable of beating any European team. Without forgetting the specificity of a first match in such a competition, with all the nervousness and tension that this presupposes. But we have been warned and it is out of the question to take Argentina lightly. Then, concerning our group more generally, it isis clearly the more difficult of the two.

Is finishing the best ranked essential for the future?


This would allow us to have a more affordable quarter-final on paper.

But at the same time, we know that the results in the group stage do not deliver any truth for the quarter-finals.

I lived it in the past in 2004 when we finished first before failing in the quarterfinals against the 4th of the other group, Russia.

So I know that this phase is important for confidence, to develop our game, but the first game will be the quarter-final.

What is also valid if we lose one or two matches, it will not be necessary that it is the panic on board.

Read also: Olympic Games 2020: dates, program, time difference, channels, French athletes, all about the Tokyo Olympics

What did you think of the France team in your absence during the Egyptian World Cup last January?


There have been positives and negatives. We had some very good matches, but it was fluctuating, we alternated with a much lower level. Finishing in the top four was quite a good result even if when you get to the semi-finals you are not satisfied with it. Especially when you play Sweden which has less talent than us. We came across a team that played handball better, it showed us all the room for improvement we had. We are pretty confident but we are aware that there is work to be done to be able to claim the best places.

Michaël Guigou and Luc Abalo will experience their last international competition with the French team during these Games. How does it feel to see them hang up?


We are not yet at the end of the competition, so it is difficult today to tell you exactly how I feel. What is certain is that having experienced all these competitions and all these titles with Luc and Mika created a necessarily special relationship between us. But I don't want to think about it too much right now. When the time is right, I might as well talk about it.

Source: lefigaro

All sports articles on 2021-07-23

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