Boladé Apithy – in his words

As a fencer, I’ve learned many things from the bad times as well as the good. Four years ago, for example, I didn’t qualify for the Rio Olympics as I wasn’t fencing well at the time and didn’t deserve to go. But instead I had the chance to live this experience with my brother Yemi. He was representing Benin and I was his coach. It was really amazing to be there with my brother; we’re really close and to be behind him, helping him in this competition, was great for me. After that experience, I knew I wanted to be a coach at the end of my fencing career. I then did some coaching work with 14, 15-year-olds and being a coach has changed my way of seeing fencing. I was coaching these kids and when I started I would tell them to do this or that and for me it seemed simple, but they kept asking me this killer question: ‘Why?’ I’d be thinking, ‘What do you mean, “why”?’ and they’d ask again, ‘Why do we have to do this, coach?’.

I then understood that I had never put into words what I was doing, I did it just because it was what I did. As a result, I started going back and trying things in my personal training to understand better what I wanted my pupils to do. I started to think about why I did certain actions and it gave me a chance to see fencing in another way. In fact, there are many actions I did before because it felt natural but now, after asking myself why, I made changes. For example, before when I started I’d take a little step and go back, now I do two quick steps and go back.

I’ve worked a lot more on the mental side of my fencing too – on what I need to do during competitions to stay focused on my fencing, give it my best and enjoy what I do. I live in Paris with my girlfriend Manon Brunet, who’s also a sabre fencer, and she’s very inspiring and motivating. She is a great champion and she pushes me every day to be better in and out of fencing. We don’t talk about our sport all the time but when I have some doubts I can speak with her and it’s a great support for me. I also have coaches for the mental aspect. I’ve been working with them – Philippe Vernazobes and Stephane Limouzin – for four years now and the work has started to pay off.

When I am not training, I try to spend time on a cryptocurrency project. It’s my way of trying to change the world. Not everyone can have access to a bank account so if I can help people in this way, I will be very happy. My father came from Benin and I see people there, for example, without money. It’s a really interesting project. I also love playing poker. It’s a game a lot of fencers play and there are many similarities with our sport. You have the competition, the stress, the adrenalin; you have to make a plan to beat your opponent and when you win it’s very exciting. Here in France I like to play with Yannick Borel as when my very aggressive sabre style comes up against his more patient epee style, there is only one winner. In these games, sabre is the best!

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