Day in the life
Away from the glitz and glamour of the Olympic Games, dozens of athletes subsidise their sports career by having other jobs. From farming to banking, Tokyo 2020 looks at several hopefuls aiming to make an impact next summer and what roles they have outside of competition. This week, we introduce a French karate athlete and five-time world champion, who also works over 50 hours a week as a lawyer.
- Name: Alexandra Recchia
- Age: 32
- Country: France
- Sport: Karate
Her athlete life
Three months before the 2016 Karate World Championships, Alexandra Recchia was preparing for her last dance. At this stage of her career, she was 28 and had already won everything she could win: Two team event world titles (2010, 2012), one world title in the -50 kg female kumite (2012), two European titles (2013, 2017) and eight Premier League gold medals – all of the most prestigious events on the World Karate circuit.
This last competition was set to be the accomplished athlete's farewell, before she began another life. But the 129th Session of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), from 2-4 August 2016, completely changed her plans.
"I had planned to end my karate career after the World Championships," Recchia admitted in an interview with Tokyo 2020. "But I learnt the news that karate would be included on the Tokyo 2020 Olympic programme. I thought about it a lot."
She arrived at the World Championship in reasonably good shape, not knowing what her future would look like. However, by the end of the tournament, she had won another two World Championship titles, in the single and team events. At that moment she came to a realisation.
"It was impossible to stop. The Olympics is a dream. I've competed in every possible event and I have won everything. The only one missing is the Olympics. I want to finish my career with this goal. I carried on competing for that sole reason."
At the age of 32, she is now 20th in the Olympic -55kg ranking, and will compete in the Olympic Qualification tournament to be held in Paris in June 2021 – all with the aim of booking her ticket to Tokyo 2020 and attempting to fulfil her dream:
"Win the gold medal. But to be honest, I would take any kind of medal!"
Her professional life
In October 2016, the month she secured her second world title, the athlete from France also achieved something else: a Practising Certificate to be a barrister in France. Yes, Alexandra Recchia obtained one of the hardest diplomas in the world while also being an elite athlete and a world champion. It is a challenge very few people could dream of taking on but, for the French athlete, it's actually what enabled her to stay at her best.
Four years earlier, she had graduated with a master's degree from a university specialising in law. It was the same year she had won her first world title in single event.
"I realised that I achieve my best results when I'm most challenged," said Recchia.
Today, she is working full-time as an employment lawyer. She defends people who are dismissed from the jobs due to underperformance or serious misconduct.
She assumed the position in November 2020, after three years of fully dedicating herself to sports. Now, she is working up to 50 hours a week while preparing for Tokyo 2020.
Always on the move, she began by training after work but soon needed to adapt her schedule as it was too difficult to give her best in training after an exhausting day.
"Now I train from 7.15 am to 8.30 am before going to work at around 10 am," said Recchia, talking from the reprography room where she had gone straight after arriving at the office. "With that rhythm, I can finish whenever I want."
When asked how she handles that amount of work, her answer was simple:
"When you study law, you are always in that type of situation. Before your exams, you can study all night, sleep for two hours and go to the exam. It's the same with the entry and final exam for law school. It's basically 15 days of studying 22 hours a day. So 10 hours a day is no big deal!"
When she joined the law office last November, it was partly because she didn't have anything to challenge herself with, especially since every competition following her victory at the Adidas Open in October - the first event after the COVID-19 pandemic - was cancelled. After that, no challenge was too difficult for Recchia to handle.
"I was waking up without any challenges, even though that's what motivates me. At some point, my mindset was affected. I wasn't depressed but I was slowly heading that way. The financial factor made me take the decision to get this job. And now, I have found that balance between intellectual and sporting activities, as well as a daily challenge."
Being a lawyer is not something that is completely unrelated to her life as a karate champion. In fact, she sees many similarities between being an athlete and her job.
"I just found myself in this profession. There is the performance aspect with the audience in the court, the human aspect with the client - and that's very challenging. You need to know how to juggle many tasks as well, and in karate, you have to focus on many things in a hundredth of a second."
"Everything [about karate] is in this job."
Recchia's life now consists of attacking people on the tatamis and defending people in court. However, in a little over five months, she will be making an assault on her Olympic dream, before returning to the side of the defence once and for all - hopefully with an Olympic medal around her neck.