Many top competitive judokas retire after they can no longer win in competitions. Although France’s Hélène Receveaux, 31, was past her prime and beset by many injuries when she finally decided to retire, she is one of the few who can truly say she retired on top.
Receveaux fought at U57kg, which is one of the toughest categories in the women’s division. In France itself, she had many strong domestic rivals during her decade-long career at the senior level, including Automne Pavia, Priscilla Gneto and most recently, Sarah Leonie Cysique.
It can be said her peak was in 2017 when she won the bronze medal at the 2017 Warsaw European Championships and 2017 Budapest World Championships.
Receveaux did not compete in any IJF events this year and her last year of international competition was last year, which did not start off well for her. She failed to medal at the 2021 Doha World Masters and the 2021 Tashkent Grand Slam.
However, in her final appearance on the IJF World Tour, she won gold at the 2021 Kazan Grand Slam, defeating two Russians along the way as well as a top German player.
She used ouchi-gari, her favorite technique, to defeat Yulia Kazarina (RUS) in the quarterfinal and used it again against Theresa Stoll (GER) in the semifinal. Both times, she scored ippon.
Her final match was against home favorite Daria Kurbonmamadova (nee Mezhetskaia). Once again, Receveaux relied on her tokui-waza, ouchi-gari. A waza-ari score was given though at first glance it looked like it could have gone to either player as Kurbonmamadova attempted an ouchi-gaeshi counter on the way down and Receveaux did fall on her side as a result. But slow-motion replay showed that the Russian fell down on her side first, so the waza-ari was rightly given to Receveaux.
With that win, Receveaux was able to exit international competition on top, something not many top competitors can claim to have done.