Gabon’s first Olympic medallist wants to swap silver for gold
Taekwondo fighter Anthony Mylann Obame has become an influential role model back home as Gabon’s first ever medallist, but sees room for improvement at Rio 2016.
Obame made history when he took silver in the men's heavyweight event at the London 2012 Olympic Games, winning the first Olympic medal for the small African country of Gabon. He hopes to top that in Rio de Janeiro by becoming Gabon’s first Olympic champion. Since that memorable day in London, a lot has changed for Obame. As Olympic medallist and 2013 world champion, the 27-year-old has become famous in the west African nation that has a population of just 1.7 million.
"I am much more involved in social activities and also in the sport, the Anthony Obame of 2011 is not the same as the Anthony Obame of 2016. It is something grand to make history in your country and to be a role model for young people. Today I can support the young ones with material and can motivate them, make them believe that they can succeed, even if our country is very small,” he said.
"A lot of youngsters have taken up taekwondo, but not only taekwondo. There are now many young people that are motivated for success and not only by me. I am just one more example with my Olympic medal and my world title that you can succeed even under difficult circumstances. You just have to try, by all means you have, to get to a certain level. This is the message that I want to bring across today.”
The taekwondo fighter had to leave familiar surroundings behind to focus on his sporting career. He moved to France in 2011 to train at a high level with the French team. When his coach, Juan Antonio Ramos Sanchez, returned to his native Spain in 2013, Obame followed him. On his way to Rio, he had to overcome a leg injury that needed surgery.
"I had to go through very difficult times and if I wasn't so passionate about the sport, I think I would have given up. I had several injuries, in the end of 2014 and the whole year of 2015. When this happens to you, you really have to focus on your goals, you have to be strong mentally to be able to continue.”
His goal is the gold medal in the men's +80kg on 20 August in Carioca Arena 3. Obame lost in London by the slimmest of margins — referee's decision — against Italy’s Carlo Molfetta. The three regular rounds ended 9-9 and there was no score in the extra "golden point" round. The Italian is not competing in Rio. However, Obame does not consider himself a favourite.
"Nobody is a favourite. You have to treat each opponent the same way, you never can underestimate anyone. I like to take it one step at a time and like this I was able to do great things.