BAKU, Azerbaijan (May 31, 2023) - Less than 24 hours have passed since Althéa Laurin made history in Baku and it is clear that the enormity of her achievements has still not set in.
“I don’t know if I am realising completely that I am World Champion right now,” Laurin says calmly while the preliminary competitions range on around us. “But it feels very good. It’s hard work rewarded so we worked as a team and being rewarded in public like this is nice.”
Before yesterday’s competition, France had not won a Taekwondo World Championships in 10 years. However, by the time Althéa claimed her title last night it had only been 15 minutes since France last won a World title as her compatriot Magda Wiet-Hénin had won gold herself in the -67kg.
“I think we made history in French Taekwondo because this is the first time we have two gold medals on the same day so I am quite proud of it and I think Magda is too,” Laurin says. “For sure it makes it more special that we have not won in 10 years. Everyone in the team was so happy for us. It’s really good.”
At just 21 year’s old, Laurin has already won Olympic bronze but last night’s gold medal was her first gold in a promoted World Taekwondon senior event.
“When I go to a competition usually I try to think about winning: that’s it. So I was feeling as usual and I did my best and this happened,” she says.
This singular focus served Laurin well as she only lost one round on her way to the title, winning 2-0 against Great Britain’s Rebecca McGowan in the final.
Part of what makes her so difficult to beat is the variety in her play as she constantly leaves her opponent guessing; something she puts down to instinct.
“It depends how I feel. if I’m more comfortable doing something I will do it more,” she explains. “It depends on my feeling and instinct. I have a gameplan, but I try to listen to my intuition and instinct.”
With fewer Taekwondo events so far this year, Laurin has been able to focus her energy on these World Championships, something she credits for the significant improvement she has made since the World Championships last year in Guadalajara.
“I think the difference is I put more focus on the World Championships than being able to perform at every single competition. The calendar was less charged. In terms of performance it was better for me. I had more time to mentally prepare. It was the main event.”
However, the main event has now come and gone and Laurin has a taste for gold. Just next week she will return to the mat when she competes at the Roma 2023 Grand Prix. Her targets are simple: “As usual doing my best. Getting a gold. I think we are all here for this.”
After that it is the Paris 2023 Grand Prix, where again Laurin is targeting gold at a home event.
Every top athlete has this elite mentality to win every time they compete. But at 21, Laurin also has the humility to view each competition as a chance to “learn a lot”.
And with each learning opportunity brings her one step closer to the ultimate goal: gold at her home Games in Paris.
“We are talking about longer term but it’s short, it’s only one year. I have to do my best; do my preparation and get it,” she says assuredly. “It will be something really special [competing at a home Olympics] I don’t know how to describe it. I’m waiting to live it to see how it feels. It’s really a nice venue.”
A home Games brings added pressure. Particularly when you are World Champion and the President of the country has called for more medals. But Laurin does not seem daunted and exudes the same calmness and confidence she does on the mat.
“I don’t feel the pressure. I feel pressure when I put objectives on myself. I think it’s nice like this. Motivation comes first from inside.”