Two Nations, One Heart

Yémi Apithy makes his Olympic debut in Rio and represents Benin for the first time in the sport. Story sponsored by GE.

Rio de Janeiro – Yémi Apithy – who has dual French and Beninese citizenship – marched at the head of the delegation of Benin at the Maracanã Stadium in Rio showing that his heart has no borders. His first time at the Olympics and the first representative from Benin at the Games, the 27-year-old fencer feels a mixture of joy and honor for his historic feat. 

“Was a great honor, and a totally magic thing to do it in this legendary stadium,” said Apithy just a couple of hours after leaving the stage of the opening ceremony of Rio 2016.“In 2012, I had the wish to do it with my brother, Bolade, but I was in studies. Now, I had a new chance to make this dream come true.”

A native of Dijon, on the French region known as Côte-d'Or, he spent his childhood in the town of Verdun-sur-le-Doubs, surrounded by his mother, aunts, uncles and grandmother. Even though he grew up in France, Apithy was selected to represent his father’s homeland Benin in Rio, and now carries the colors of the country in fencing. The athlete arrived in Rio de Janeiro on July 29 with carefully controlled expectations, but not without ambition. He will make his Olympic debut in the men's individual sabre round of 32 against German Max Hartung on August 10. 

“I am here and wish I can expose all my talent in the competition to have no regrets and, who knows, maybe it will be enough to have a great time. For now it is already amazing.”  Apithy says this is the biggest event in his career as a fencer. “To become the happiest person right now I should be the first responsible to give the best of myself and represent the sport worthily.”

Soul connection

Brazil’s African roots are everywhere - people, music, dance, food and religion. This is visible to Apithy, who thinks it may help him go further. “I feel very well here. I think there are actually many similarities in the way of life and in the organization. And when I think about Africa, it's more than this: I feel supported by an entire country, or even a continent. It is an honor for me.”

Header Photo Credit: FranceTvSport

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