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Olympic fencer Ysaora Thibus: 'I'm an athlete, but first I'm a woman, I'm a Black woman'

October 22, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

When she started to fence at the age of seven on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, Ysaora Thibus never dared dream of becoming an Olympian.

(CNN)When she started to fence at the age of seven on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, Ysaora Thibus never dared dream of becoming an Olympian.

Ten years later she was asked to join INSEP -- France's leading training institute for elite athletes -- which has helped develop the likes of basketball star Tony Parker and former world No. 1 tennis player Amélie Mauresmo.

As well developing her skills on the fencing piste, Thibus has increasingly used her platforms to raise awareness of social injustices, given her own experiences in France and the US.

So if the society doesn't go well, it's also their role to speak up," explains Thibus, who says Rule 50 isn't something that athletes are always aware of when starting out.

"The Olympic Games is a business right now, and they have a responsibility to all their 'friends' and athletes to entertain.

Kirsty Coventry, chair of the IOC Athletes' Commission and an Olympic champion swimmer from Zimbabwe, said in a statement sent to CNN that "every athlete voice matters and we want to hear them.

"We encourage Ysaora to engage with the Athletes' Commissions of the French National Olympic Committee and the International Fencing Federation, or directly with us to share her views as we would very much appreciate her contribution. "

Throughout lockdown, Thibus continued to train as if the Tokyo Olympic Games would still happen in 2020, but she also had time and the opportunity to think another issue she feels passionate about.

As a result, she started EssentiElle ("Elle" means "She" in French) -- a space for female athletes to talk about their stories, lives, challenges and victories.

Thibus is hoping to interview tennis star Naomi Osaka and French fencing legend Laura Flessel for her next series.

"We're also talking about finding solutions to shine a light on what they're doing because they're [women] working hard," says Thibus.

"As a female athlete, I'm working as hard as a male to have the Olympic medal.

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