10 June 2024


Madrid European Open 2024


The French -90kg World medallist and Tokyo Olympic Games Mixed Team Champion, Axel CLERGET showed up to the Madrid European Open completely out of the ranking as he inscribed in the -100kg category. Though many dabble in a different weight, it seemed to phase Clerget very little as he managed to defeat his team mates in the preliminary rounds to make it in to the final.

You know it’s funny that I’m fighting in -100kg, it’s the second time for me. The first was in the Paris Grand Slam and I’d only had a little training so it was for fun, but this time it is different. Now I can say I have medals on the tour in three different categories; -81kg, -90kg and now -100kg!

Clerget took medals early in his career in the -81kg category, including an IJF Masters silver in Suwon 2010 and his first in the Paris Grand Slam in 2009. Following the London Olympic Games 2012, he ventured in to the -90kg category where he found tremendous success with an abundance of IJF World Tour medals.

It wasn’t an easy day, I had three strong French guys, they’re my partners in training, they’re very strong and younger than me but I came here with a lot of motivation and to enjoy it too. I still don’t know when I will stop my career, maybe now, maybe in a few months or even years, I really don’t have the answer yet. I was in the final at the World Championships with my team, and now a final this week, it’s a funny way I’ve gone. 

-100kg final; Axel CLERGET (FRA) and Iosif SIMIN (ISR) © Gabi Juan

It really isn’t clear to me, and things in France regarding this category aren’t clear. Throughout this cycle I was always asking myself if I wanted to fight -90kg or -100kg, but I thought why not try it at least? Maybe it is too late but it’s my life and it was my choice. 

At 37 years-old most would probably assume that following the World Championships 2024 in Abu Dhabi, the seasoned athlete would have hung up his judogi and announced retirement, but it seems the chapter isn’t finished, it just became a little more comfortable!

For sure -90kg is over now! [Clerget laughs] I don’t want to be dieting like that anymore! For the World Championships I did it for the French team, it was important for me to be a part of that and help keep the ranking position of the team. It was hard, I was really heavy, but now I am much more comfortable, I was even eating with friends last week! It’s easier, and much nicer! 

The ne waza king gave a world class performance in the Abu Dhabi World Championships 2024. © Gabi Juan

This team competition is really important for us, at home we know that Japan want to take the title so it was important to stay on top of the ranking. Maybe I was trying to give this team atmosphere to the young generation, they are strong and they are on the top of the podium but I am here to play my part, that is the strength of the team. 

Now that the Paris Olympic Games is practically on our doorstep, we will soon have the answer to the question, can France defend their historic Mixed Team title? Further on, we will also be able to answer fi Axel Clerget will be the new face of the -100kg category in Team France.

Team France in Tokyo! © Gabi Juan


Author: Thea Cowen