World champion in 2017 and European champion in 2018, the only thing missing is the Olympic title for the goalkeeper of the French handball team to complete a fantastic loop.
Amandine, in your preparation for these very special Games, have you managed to disregard all the health context and the vagueness concerning the organization on site?
Amandine Leynaud: Disregard, no, because it is heavy. I have been doing a PCR test every three or four days for several months and I can tell you that we cannot ignore that (smile). I have also known some quarantines, matches canceled at the last moment… It has become a bit of our daily life. Nevertheless, we are still very lucky to have been able to continue doing what we love and our profession. I feel privileged and this allows me to take a step back to play down those moments that are not easy to live with.
These Games will be your last competition with the French team …
Yes, I never hid it. I should have stopped a year ago and then the epidemic pushed me to continue for another year. But there, I think I did the trick. I feel good, happy, at peace with myself about it all.
Finally, are you happy to have had this extra year?
I don’t know… Last year I was sad that the Games were postponed. I was wondering how psychologically and physically I was going to last an extra season, even though it’s something I’ve been doing for a very long time. I know my body, I feel like I could still go on but I think it’s a good time for me to stop. It is my conviction.
Does it change the way you approach this competition?
Not really. Obviously, there are times when I think about it more and tell myself that I must try to make the most of it. Especially since it corresponds well to my character to take advantage of the present moment. Suddenly, inevitably, it runs in my head.
It’s hard to stand out one medal over another, because they all represent a lot of work.
The absence of Siraba Dembélé opened the question of the captaincy, which ultimately went to Coralie Lassource. Weren’t you a candidate?
It was Olivier (Krumbholz, the coach) who made his decision. Personally, I assume that in this team there are several captains and no matter what name wears the armband, we function much more in the exchange. It is a shared captaincy. With Siraba, we did not hesitate to offload certain missions to other experienced players. This is what makes our team so strong today.
More generally, with your track record and your exemplary nature, why did you not apply for the role of standard bearer?
Good question… (she thinks) I’m a reserved person who doesn’t really like to be put forward. My role in the France team suits me, and I try to focus on what I want. There are so many sportsmen and women who are emblematic in France, with extraordinary careers, that it has not crossed my mind.
Can you highlight a few pivotal moments in your career with the France team?
In retrospect, I have experienced so much that it is not easy to make a choice. The first memory that comes to my mind is that I was able to share a number of things with the older generation, and to have been present when most of them quit after the Beijing Games in 2008. Then there is as our vice-world champions in 2009, just after Beijing. At that point, we really felt like we could do great performances together. Afterwards, it’s difficult to stand out one medal over another, because they all represent a lot of work. Now, our title of world champion in 2017 will obviously remain a very strong moment, like the European one won in France the following year.
Did the little girl you were imagine having such a career?
Oh dear ! Honestly, I wanted to. I still remember the first Blue game that I saw on TV and I told myself that one day I would be. But at the same time, I didn’t even know you could be a professional player and make a living from it. So I would say no, I didn’t think it would come to this. I never imagined finding a job so fulfilling in my eyes, going to live abroad and confronting myself with other cultures. High level sport has been a real school of life for me and I do not regret for a second having embarked on this adventure.
You speak of a “school of life”. What did the French team bring you on a human level?
She changed me. The defeats, the victories, the multitude of people you meet on your way, with different characters and backgrounds… I was nourished by all that. This is something that I would not have had if I had not been in the France team, and if I had not done a team sport. It has enriched me so humanly. It is priceless to me. This is probably the thing, now that I am coming to the end of my career, that I am holding back more and more. Of course, the medals remain very important because they concretize the work done. But this life of sharing with people is just as extraordinary for me.
Listening to you, we assume that you have no regrets …
(She cuts) No, I have no regrets about my career. I feel lucky, really. Today, I evolve in one of the biggest clubs in the world, I won all the colors of medals possible and imaginable, whether in selection or in clubs… I also learned a lot of things by going to the club. stranger over me, over life. So yes, I had injuries that deprived me of certain things but they are part of a career and I have always been able to recover from them. I think my path is pretty cool (laughs).
I am proud to have become what I am today.
You say that you have won all the medals, except one however: Olympic gold…
Yes, it’s true. But if I had been told, when I was 14 or 15, that I would win an Olympic medal, like the silver one in Rio, I would not have believed it. Now, of course, I dream of coming back from Tokyo with the gold medal. From experience, I know how difficult it is to achieve this …
You do not attach importance to the idea of finishing at the top, on a great title …
(She blows) For me, finishing at the top is not necessarily synonymous with a medal. Personally anyway, because yes, for the team, it is necessary. But for me, the most important thing is that I always bring something to the team, to be efficient. From the moment you are, you necessarily help your team and you do not have any regrets. I have always had this vision, perhaps through my education, to always work and to mobilize all my abilities to help my partners. If I play a team sport, there is a reason. Then, to finish with a medal, that would be wonderful, but there are so many other parameters that come into play, such as refereeing, injuries, success at certain times, that it is not decisive for me. I don’t want to see it all and just want to be the best I can be for my last competition.
Throughout your career, unlike a Thierry Omeyer for example who was undoubtedly more individualistic, you have been able to share, especially with other babysitters …
“Titi” is an extraordinary guy. He has been huge all his career, no doubt because he had this need to confront others, to demonstrate that he was the best, always, at all times. I have this in me too, but I also accept that there are times when I can be a little less well and someone else can be very strong and bring something else. It gave me a lot to evolve with younger goalies like Laura (Glauser) or Cléo (Darleux). I need to trade. Humanity for me is very important and this transmission is fundamental, perhaps because I did not receive enough when I was young. Maybe it’s a way of catching up with myself, or of not making someone else experience what I have experienced. And then it would seem unfair to me not to pass on everything I have learned to a partner. Afterwards, if she gets better than me, then it will be up to me to work even harder.
What are you most proud of after all? Of your titles? From the image you are returning?
It’s hard to come out with one… Talking about me isn’t really my thing. I will stay on the same idea. I am proud to have become what I am today. The medals, ok, I’m proud of my career. But to have evolved and grown, to have learned to know myself, to know how to manage situations which can be difficult in the life, all that has more value in my eyes. I like the person I am in the process of becoming, because I think, I hope, that I have been able to keep my values, which is not always easy throughout a career.