Published on : 15/07/2021 – 12:39
Gambian flag bearer in Rio 2016, Gina Bass will still support her country’s flag in Tokyo. For her second participation in the Olympics, the 26-year-old sprinter will line up in the 100 and 200 meters. With the hope of playing an Olympic final, she who trains hard all year round in Gambia, Senegal, but also in France south of Paris, where she has found a surrogate family.
The gaze is determined, the gesture relaxed and the stride fiery. At the finish line, it was an easy victory that day for Gina Bass in the women’s 200 meters at the small meeting in Cergy-Pontoise. Despite a bad race lane (outside), the Gambian 26-year-old wins in 22 seconds 70, far ahead Carolle Zahi, French champion of the discipline.
A success in the most complete anonymity. Fortunately, the announcer is there to remind the sprinter’s service record: “ Gina Bass in lane 2… Quite simply the world sixth at the last world championships. »
The athlete takes it all with a smile, in rough French but full of good will: ” Hello ! I am Gina Bass, from Gambia. It makes me happy to come to France and to run in such a good time. My goal is Tokyo. »
Small, fast and relaxed
A lot of joy in the voice, a lot of dreams in the eyes… But above all fire in the legs. Despite her meter sixty, the little sprinter is therefore the tallest that evening. Small and fast, it is also absolutely not incompatible, explains Pierre Elsden. For a while, his translator, ten years ago, he is now Gina’s trainer part-time, when the latter resides in Étampes, in Essonne, south of Paris. ” She wins tonight with a very good time! », He rejoices. ” Being relaxed in this sport is important. And for Gina, all this remains a game. There is no pressure. It is true that it is his job, his livelihood. But it’s still a game. Afterwards, she doesn’t take it lightly, he’s a very swift person. A true complete athlete. She is small compared to other girls but she makes up for it in a lot of other things. »
Because Gina Bass is not just anyone: sixth over 200 meters during the last world final in Doha, Qatar in 2019, and winner of the African Games the same year over the same distance in Rabat, Morocco. Above all, she will again be the flag bearer of her country at the Tokyo Games, after having already supported the red, blue and green banner of The Gambia in Rio in 2016 : « I am always proud to represent my country, to wear the traditional dress and to carry my flag. ! », She savored. ” I am very grateful, and I would love to make it to the Olympic final. I work very hard to deserve this. Whether here in France, but also in Gambia or Senegal. »
As in Rio, Gina Bass will be the only Gambian woman to represent her country (there will be four in all, with a sprinter, a judoka and a swimmer). A country where she was born 26 years ago, near the village of Toubakouta, on the border with Senegal. Raised with her many siblings in a family of farmers, cultivators of sweet potatoes, nothing predestined her to become a top sprinter. But at 15, during a school training, she catches the eye of her teacher. It was also at this time that she met her “twin”, Adama Jammeh, also Gambian, also a specialist in the 200 meters, also present at the Rio Games in 2016 … And also a resident in Étampes, the club of most Gambian athletics in France: ” I met Gina in 2011 He remembers. ” Today, we train together, we sleep under the same roof. And sometimes even in the same bed when you have no choice. From time to time, we get a little slack, especially when we stay in France for a long time. So we cheer up! We’re like twins, and more. Because when we return to Gambia, I play the role of his coach, his manager or his training partner. We are inseparable! »
Toubakouta, Dakar and Étampes
A program in three parts: summer in Gambia, autumn in Dakar, and the rest of the year in France. So in Étampes, in the calm of Essonne, and under the hospitality of Pierre Elsden, handyman of the trio: “ We all live with me, it’s true that I have a big house », He laughs. ” The conditions are difficult for these athletes, we do not make a living from this sport. Those who practice it are generally below the poverty line… So we help each other. We consider ourselves to be a family. We are an athlete, friend, family. Gina has several families. This is how she finds her balance, with a biological side on the one hand, and athletics on the other. »
A new kind of family reunion, which allowed everyone to grow: “She didn’t have that level when she arrived at Étampes in 2014, at 19 years old. Neither am I. These are strong links, we will continue to see each other even after their sports careers. Our ambition is to stop all three at the same time, during the Paris Games in 2024. Adama, Gina and me. »
This would be a great family photo for the trio, to close an album that keeps filling up. The young fans of Gina Bass who have come to the stadium follow one another, to collect a cliché with the always very smiling Gambian. Who hopes to be flashed again, speeding this time, in the heart of summer in Tokyo.