Julia Tolofua, judoka: “We win or lose together”

Tuesday, 18 october 2022

Julia Tolofua, a practitioner of judo supported by the Caisse d’Epargne Loire-Centre, recently won her first world medal in Uzbekistan in a national French team driven by a strong sense of solidarity.

She still hadn’t had time to celebrate winning her medal, “but we’ll make up for it later,” says the young bronze medalist. “The medal’s a good sign,” she says, “especially in light of the forthcoming Olympics… in Paris!” A bronze medal in the +78kg weight class that she won in the ‘golden score’ period (sudden-death overtime) against the Israeli judoka Raz Herschko. Julia had previously lost her semi-final bout against her friend Romane Dicko, who subsequently went on to win gold. “It’s difficult to know how to approach matches against a friend,” explains Julia. “Because we know each other so well – we work together when training – you have to find that little flaw in your opponent to get an advantage. We get on really well off the mat but once on the tatami, we both go all out to win. But we always show respect. It’s one of judo’s fundamental values.” Once the bout is over, they return to being friends, which is the strength of this French team. And Julia never fails to go and encourage her other teammates, as she did throughout the week of the World Championships. “We win or lose together,” she explains. “We have to be there for those who need it… In good times and bad… This friendship, this solidarity between us, are fundamental values and very important to me personally.”

And these values make her highly appreciated by her teammates. We saw proof of this when Amandine Buchard, supported by Seeyond (an affiliate of Natixis Investment Managers), came to give her a hug after she won her medal. “Amandine is a great friend of mine,” explains Julia. “Last year in Tokyo when she won her semi-final, which guaranteed that she’d win an Olympic medal, I happened to be at a bachelorette party. I was so happy for her that I started to cry… and I cried so much that my friends thought that something terrible had happened.” Julia is a sentimental person, which means that she also has to struggle against her own nature when fighting on the tatami.

She discovered judo in Calvi in Corsica when she was just 5 years old. “It was the only discipline open to young girls, so my parents signed me up for it.” Julia, in fact, comes from a very sporting family considering that her cousins Christopher and Selevasio Tolofua are both rugby internationals.

“I also played handball,” she says, “I loved it. We had a fantastic teacher and we traveled all over Corsica, it was great!” But she also showed considerable talent in judo, which sent her first to the Creps sports center in Ajaccio before the French training facility in Marseille and then the Insep training institute near Paris and, finally, to the French Team where she finds herself competing with the world champion, Romane Dicko. “I know there are areas where I still need to improve,” admits Julia, “but I’m going to work hard and do everything I can to qualify for the Olympic Games Paris 2024. That’s the goal of my career.” A career that she is also pursuing along with her studies. “I first became qualified as a sports teacher, and now I’ve started studying physical therapy, which is something I love! I don’t like staying idle,” she says with a smile. “In any case, you have to prepare for your future life…” A life that promises to be intense and full of strong emotions!

“We share the same flame”