NEW episode UP!
Hello taekwondo lovers, I’m very happy to be with you again and to bring you a new interview with a world and Olympic medalist from France.
Marlene Harnois started taekwondo at a very young age.
One of the keys that made her love taekwondo was that her first instructors made taekwondo fun.
She was a competitive and active girl, although she practiced many sports when she had to specialize in one she knew taekwondo was for her.
First she made it to the Canada National Team and started winning competitions like the US Open as a junior.
Marlene had the opportunity of training in France and in order to pursue her dreams she started to compete for France, focusing on international success.
One of the keys to make that change was that she was looking for a more competitive training environment.
Marlene remarks that having teammates that demand your best is one of the most important things an athlete needs to develop.
With France Marlene has been two times European Championships gold, World University gold and World Taekwondo Championships bronze medalist in Gyeongju 2011.
Marlene finished a great Olympic cycle in 2012 with a Bronze medal in London 2012.
Marlene has been decorated with the Knight of the Order Merit and has been very involved in the development of sports in West Africa.
Marlene contributed with the two historical medals Ivory Coast achieved in Rio 2016.
Marlene is a Champion for Peace, she represents the Peace and Sport organisation which works for bringing the values of sport to the heart of communities and individuals in crisis throughout the world.
Marlene talked with us about
- Her journey in taekwondo
- Moving to live far from your parents to another country at a very young age
- Her preparation for London 2012 Olympic Games
- Differences in taekwondo in Canada, France and Africa.
You can watch the interview on YouTube and hear it on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
Taekwondo has to be fun
Marlene started practicing taekwondo at 4. One of the virtues of her first taekwondo school was to make taekwondo fun for children.
Marlene shares that it was one of the reasons that made her stick to taekwondo.
As a very active girl, it would be hard for her to be in a place where she only would be able to practice the same movements over and over.
Marlene was a multisport girl. She practiced and competed also in fencing and handball but as she grew older the moment came when she had to decide for one sport.
And she decided to go for taekwondo.
It seems it was the right decision as she had a very successful taekwondo career which later helped her to work in other sides of sports and to help people all over the world.
Outside parents home at 16
The journey of course was not easy.
Is not so common to leave your home country without your parents at 16.
Marlene made the decision of leaving Canada to train and live in France because she wanted to train better and in a more competitive environment.
In France she started to train with olympic and world medalists. And soon she noticed changes in her performance.
She had an amazing cycle towards London 2012, medaling in the most important events. World Championships, European Championships, Universiade.
Before the London Olympics Marlene had not the preparation anyone could imagine, she was sent to train in a military camp in the jungle in the French Guiana.
The training was not precisely focused on taekwondo, she even broke a foot there but in a certain way she thinks it helped her to strengthen her mind.
The last weeks she was in France alone while her team was in Great Britain in the last stage training for the event.
Anyway, I think we can all learn from this. Because as we’ve seen in past interviews ideal conditions don’t exist.
Marlene still managed to do her best in London, maybe the last part of her process was not ideal but she had all her past hard work with her.
And she achieved the bronze medal in London.
Which is an amazing result because due to the magnitude of the Olympics anything can happen there.
Since Marlene retired, France had a new federation team with top world trainers like Rosendo Alonso, Gulsah Kuscu, Glawdys Épangue and Pascal Gentil.
Helping to develop the sport
When Marlene decided to retire from competition, she was close to high level African athletes like Anthony Obame and Balla Dieye
The first time she went to Africa was with Balla Dieye and with him they started to promote taekwondo, going to schools and also making seminars with the national team.
Around that time some of Marlene’s friends from Ivory Coast called her as she was very close to the country.
She went to Abidjan to the club where Ruth Gbagbi and Cheick Sallah Cissé trained.
Marlene was stunned by the amount of talent of the athletes there, she had trained all over the world and had never seen so many talented people training together.
She was also amazed by the focus and the spirit of their training.
Together with the talent also was a very modest environment. They didn’t have mats or targets, no protections.
She connected with them immediately as they shared the same passion. So she got involved with the project.
With Cheick and Ruth they were involved in promoting taekwondo, education and social action.
They created a foundation through which they were able to bring the electronic protector system for Ivory Coast and as Cheick Cisse was sponsored by Daedo they also provided equipment to build a facility for the development of younger athletes.
Peace and Sports
Marlene continues her labour helping people through sports now working as an ambassador for Peace and Sports.
Peace and Sports is an organization that works in areas across the world with the objective of bringing the structuring values of sport to the heart of communities and individuals in crisis throughout the world.
Marlene is part of The Champions for Peace, who are high level international athletes who want to support the most disadvantaged communities through sport.
The Champions for Peace are athletes like Lionel Messi, Didier Drogba, Pascal Gentil and Novak Djokovic.
Peace and Sports recently developed an app that would help sport trainers to bring structured training methodology to the communities they work.
Marlene is a passionate professional. I hope you will enjoy the interview with her.
Please let us know what you have learned from her journey in the comment section.