The Story of Handball Great Didier Dinart | Legends Live On


It was my duty, my mission to win the Olympics. His mental strength got him
to where he is today. DD was the general
of their defence. Didier Dinart! They say: “Good offence
wins a match “but defence wins
competitions.” The greatest defender
in a decade. He’s an athlete no-one
will ever forget. (LEGENDS LIVE ON) (BASSE-TERRE, GUADELOUPE) What I respect most
in a man is humility. Your social position
mustn’t change your attitude and make you forget
where you’re from. Didier Dinart, selected 379
times for the French team, two-time gold medallist,
triple world champion, double European champion, winner of countless national
trophies, and coach for the French team since 2016
with Guillaume Gilles. I’m proud to inaugurate
my first sports hall, especially in Guadeloupe,
in Basse-Terre, where I’m from. I’m very proud to be
here with you tonight. I know it isn’t easy
to be young here. Thank you so much, and let’s
have a good time tonight. The Sports Hall! Standing there, seeing
“Didier Dinart”, my mother was ecstatic. It warms the heart. (MRS DINART,
DIDIER’S MOTHER) It’s amazing! It’s an honour
for me and for Guadeloupe. If you told me at 16 that I’d be the national coach,
I would’ve said: “Nonsense!” History has shown that,
through hard work, unlikely things can happen. Defence, pass the ball up. Our defence is solid,
we know what they’re doing. A coach is an altruist. It means: “I want to help.” Didier has a huge heart. He’s very generous and
very giving. He’s reaches out to people,
offers his knowledge. That’s why everyone loves him and why the players feel close
to him and respect him. I think a fraternal
player-coach relationship is essential. There mustn’t be a wall
between us. We’re a team. We win together,
we lose together. (RIO 2016, SEMI-FINAL
FRANCE-GERMANY) Originally, we were in control. But, for some reason, we got
stuck and went from a 7-point lead to a tie 50
seconds before the end. I thought:
“We need a time-out.” Moumoute.
You’re tired. Yago diverts. Yago diverts to the left,
that way we get it done. OK? Yago diverts. We all dream of making
the decisive time-out. I’m very proud to have had
my career because I know where
I came from, and you should never
forget that. (BASSE-TERRE, GUADELOUPE) When Didier was born, he weighed over eight lbs
and was two feet long. He was already quite big. I was born in Pointe-à-Pitre because the volcano
La Soufrière was in ’76. Many people born
in Pointe-à-Pitre were from Basse-Terre
because the volcano exploded. Creole is a real culture, but it wasn’t allowed
when I was a child. When you’re at school, you want to learn
to speak French correctly before speaking
the local dialect – Creole. It’s through here. Welcome to the jungle. This is my childhood home,
where I grew up. It’s like a pilgrimage. You think,
“This kid would play here, “a mango tree stood
there.” Now, you can’t recognise much.
It’s all trees. He grew up fast
and was always moving around. He’d go fishing, climb coconut
trees. He had to move. I’d escape from this window
to go fishing with my brother. We’d get up at 5:00
while Mum was sleeping. When we came back,
we’d get spanked. But at least we’d been fishing. As a kid, I liked
to take risks. If anything was forbidden,
I’d do it. I raised him alone. His dad abandoned him, that’s the problem.
He was three. It wasn’t easy. Mum was divorced,
raising her kids on her own. His environment was,
I’d say, loving. (EDDIE COURIOL,
TALENT SCOUT IN GUADELOUPE) He was very close to his mother because he grew up
without a dad. The kitchen,
another tiny bedroom. This was my room. My mum was right there.
We were a bit… A real bond forges when you watch your mum
raise you on her own. She was very courageous. I think sports offered me
a very important path. It also helped me
to become a man. When you have no father, you
have to build that up yourself. I’ve always wanted to matter,
one way or another. I found basketball
too refined for me… Later, I was passionate
about handball because I had a teacher
who played a bit. I got my first club
membership at age 14. I went to the club
where Didier would play. He was already six feet tall. Maybe even 6′ 2″. I was tall,
I’d jump, I’d throw hard, so I’d scare my opponents
because I was a bit taller. He was a brute force. Once I chose handball, I quickly started dreaming
of the big leagues. Our group of three friends
would always say: “We want to go to France.” In my office, I received
Didier and his mother. I told them: “Didier wants to.
And I think the time is right. “What do you think?” As an arrogant
16-year old I said: “Mum, this is my decision.
I’m leaving.” She accepted it. I knew leaving
was an essential step. When I saw the plane leave, I watched it go
and started to cry. (DIDIER LEFT GUADELOUPE
IN AUGUST 1992 (TO STUDY SPORTS IN DIJON) This guy arrives who
we’ve never seen before. (GUILLAUME GILLE, TEAM-MATE
AND COACH FOR NATIONAL TEAM) A kind of beast. We were training and doing
all these physical tests. He arrived and broke all
the records. We thought: “Who is this guy?” It wasn’t easy to be 16,
far from home. I discovered everything.
I was mature beyond my years. If I take my story… when I left to study sports
in Dijon, I was alone in my room
and thought: “What am I doing here?”
and “Will I succeed?” I left here, flew 7,000km,
and the first thing I said was: “I can’t make a mistake.” He needed a thirst
for success because, leaving his native Guadeloupe
to go to Dijon in the winter, in September,
when it’s raining, in a dark room…
You need to be mentally strong, and that mental strength
got him where he is today. For two years,
he didn’t go home. He wanted to train, work,
train, work. He was obsessed with becoming
a pro. Everything was handball.
And he made it. All these stories you hear about people from overseas
French territories that are uprooted,
who change environments very young for a
sports project, or whatever… they’re naturally very
ambitious… This is why we came all
this way to see you. To pass that on to you
and tell you it’s possible. Work hard and live your dream. I see myself in them, the young Didier
who left for France. Passing my knowledge on to
those kids is very important. As a kid, I didn’t have
stars visiting me. When we go with Nikola
and Cédric to the centre, it’s unheard of for them. It’s like: “They came,
and you have access to them. “It’s possible.” I started as left backcourt.
Don’t laugh. And I ended
up as defence. I thought: “I can’t fail.” So, I said:
“I’m going to fight.” I was angry and this anger
pushed me to being a defender. Doing something the others
didn’t want to do. I enjoyed defending,
making my opponents fail. It was also a rather
innovative role to be just a defender. He created that defence style,
which has become a model. Defence is a huge combat. He restores balance,
stops, or commands. We’d say we’re going to war. Even though that’s a bit
strong, it’s what we’d say. We were going to war with
a guy. You knew he’d be there. He was a true warrior. I’ve been called the dentist,
the butcher… That created an image
of me I didn’t want. People thought he was a
scrapper because he was so energetic and used his physical
qualities, so it looked like he wanted to
destroy everything. Which is what he did – he destroyed
everything in his path. He was in a duel. A player came a bit too close and Didier stopped him
in his tracks. He grabbed him by the nose. The guy was rolling around
on the ground, screaming. Didier goes:
“I haven’t done anything.” But, in his hand,
there was a trickle of blood. Being a pure defender
is an invisible job. It’s the very essence
of team sports – you give a lot,
you’re not appreciated for it, and the others take advantage. It’s really, very generous. When you’re a defender, for me
you’re an altruist because you want
what’s best for others. You want them to shine. I know Didier often felt hurt that his work as a defender
wasn’t appreciated. That only happened later. When I wanted my role
as defender to be appreciated,
I worked even harder and said: “One day, I’ll be appreciated.” People will appreciate all this work and say that defence is essential to performance
and winning titles. (SYDNEY 2000) Going to the Olympics in 2000, my first Olympics, had already been my goal. Getting to the Olympics
required a lifetime of work. It’s only through pitfalls, or getting smacked down
that you learn to stabilise your game. (IN SYDNEY, FRANCE
LOSES PREMATURELY (AGAINST YUGOSLAVIA) It was disappointing, but
Sydney was more about learning. And 2004
was make it or break it. We needed that medal in Athens. It was my first Olympics. We had an incredible team. We beat everybody
and ended up first in our pool. But we hit a wall against the
Russians who had finished fourth and were on the decline. We started to fail
collectively, which meant that, at
one point, nothing worked. It was humiliating.
And everyone said: “You’re the head defender.
So you’re to blame.” Which I accepted. I’ve always accepted
my responsibility, I’ve never blamed other people. That also helps you grow. I started thinking differently. I wanted to reach
another level. To do that, I needed
strategy, analysis. He really transformed. He started taking
a tactical approach. In addition to his power, he was able to trick
his attackers without just blocking them. That’s where Didier’s evolution really began in handball. But especially his evolution
as a man and in his leadership. A leader in combat. A leader in combat strategy. DD was a strong guy
with a big brain. When he needed to be
aggressive, he was aggressive. When he needed to be passive,
he was passive. One of the best players
in history in defence. He was the best
defender in the world, for me. Didier used to say: “You win matches with
good players and offence, “but you win championships
with tough defence.” (BEIJING 2008) In 2008,
the context was simple: we were crushed
after our loss in 2004. It was our duty,
our obligation, our mission to win
the Olympics. We were on a mission. In 2008, we all had this
incredible desire to turn the tide of our Olympic
adventures. (SEMIFINAL
FRANCE-CROATIA) Croatia in semi… A final before the final. The Croatians won gold
in Athens. Games against Croatia were
always really, really tight. Ivano, who was twice voted best
player in the world, and who’s exceptional… We were never
easy on each other, but we’ve always had a healthy
relationship. Very fair and by the book. To be at your best
you need the best opponents. So we can say we help each
other to be better players. It was a tense match. It was a big match,
very defensive. I watched it again. Crazy. We were stuck at 22-22. And then we defended
for three and a half minutes. Three minutes of defence
is something. It’s rough! When you have a central
defender like that, who directs his defence
and shows such intensity, everybody outdoes themselves
and gains confidence. It creates a very strong bond because we’re in the same hell,
the same struggle. I remember our defence
where the Croatians, who had the best offence
at the time, they couldn’t get past it. And you hit the wall, and you hit the wall
and again and again… If you are not scoring
a lot then you get frustrated. Watching my opponent
doubt was beautiful. When you see him giving up,
saying: “Not today…” That’s satisfying. When you look back at the French team’s
biggest trophies, the best moments
aren’t often the goals, but the moments of solidarity. It was amazing. Just thinking about it
gives me goose bumps. Unfortunately, we’d have
to wait two more days to be crowned. (FINAL FRANCE-ICELAND) My impression
is that we were very dominant. Incidentally, the final…
There almost wasn’t a final. It was against Iceland… It was one-sided.
We maintained a 5-goal buffer and were never really
in trouble. A Guadeloupian who made it
to that level… I find that wonderful. You don’t realise it at first. Neither do the players. Only in the long run do you
say: “My son is an Olympic
champion!” That’s the one prize
I was still missing. I’d won everything
except for that Olympic title. It was glorious. The Holy
Grail! It was magnificent. 2008 was the beginning
of something magnificent that you rarely
ever see in this sport – the sequence of the Olympics,
a World Championship the following year,
and a European title in 2010. It’s an absolute,
sublime sequence. You never get used to winning. You’re always putting
your title on the line. You always want to matter and never want anyone else
to be champion. That’s an oversized ego: someone who wants to be
a champion and say, “I’m the best,
and I want to be remembered. “I want to be talked about
for as long as possible.” And, if you can win five
times, that’s good. But six is better. Titles mean a lot to him. They’re still linked
to the time when he was a kid in Guadeloupe,
where he started from nothing. A native child left,
succeeded, and returned home. But, above all, he shares
all this with Guadeloupe. I find that very moving. This centre was more or less
closed to everyone but it will allow young people
to grow up and practise sports. I know he’s proud to have
brought all this to Guadeloupe, where he lived. That was my biggest struggle – for young people to have
access to this centre. Today, I can really be a mentor
to young Guadeloupians. I love helping them. We won’t end up being
cute old men. Our bodies have been beaten
and bruised. Didier suffered a lot but it shows how committed he
was when he played. Physically, in 2012,
my knee was in terrible shape. I’d try to walk normally so no-one would
see my moments of weakness. It was really unlikely to win
gold at the Olympics in London because we were an older team. For everyone observing us,
our time was over. Our decline was a foregone
conclusion. I think that triggered our
desire to show we still mattered. We still had pride. (LONDON 2012) I went to the
opening ceremony. My knee was hurting,
so I really insisted and stayed till the end. But I knew these would be my
last Olympics as an athlete, so I had no time for pain. His knee was damaged. He was training less, but that fire inside him
never went out and never will. Semifinal – revenge
against Croatia. They were our favourite rivals,
the Croatian team. Again, France! Why now? It was amazing to see what we could still do 4 years
after Beijing. In the final against Sweden,
we didn’t score much. But neither did they.
Thanks to our defence, we won. When you win 22-21, that seems like
a low score to some. But our defence was huge.
So was Didier. It was an amazing feat:
back-to-back Olympic wins! It was magnificent! That’ll unite us for life. It’s a bond no-one can break. It’s our history, our event. The gold medallists
and Olympic champions, representing France. Being able to share that with
guys, not only team-mates but
friends, players with whom you’ve faced
so many challenges, that you’ve
known for ten years… it’s magical. That’s the beauty of team
sports, and of handball. Sports offered a way for me
to be somebody. I threw myself into it
and experienced the greatest sensations a
top athlete could feel.

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