Karine Sergerie’s 2012 ambitions had been easily scribbled down: return to the Olympics and win one more match than she had in Beijing. Do that, and the gold medal would be hers.
But when she drew her second opponent at the ExCeL Centre, her plans took a kick in the head. Two kicks in the head. And then they were done.
Sergerie’s return to the Olympics and taekwondo’s 67-kilogram weight class ended decisively Friday evening. She had tried to counter her 5-foot-11 Slovenian opponent with movement and speed only to get kicked twice and fall behind 6-0 on points.
Afterward, Sergerie sought out her mom, and hugged her for minutes.
Things hadn’t gone well for the 5-foot-5 native of Sainte-Catherine, Que. Her whole Olympic buildup hadn’t gone well, what with injuries and setbacks. In the end, all Sergerie wanted was to go out with her best effort. She didn’t do that and it left her saddened, disappointed.
“Obviously, I wanted a podium, who doesn’t want a podium. That’s why I do the sport,” she explained. “But it was most important for me to come out to fight and to fight well and I feel I wasn’t able to do that … I wasn’t able to do that today physically. It wasn’t there.”
Why a highly trained athlete and former world champion wasn’t able to muster that fight is a story Sergerie wasn’t willing to tell.
She and her mom acknowledged some of the physical woes, the broken toe suffered in Beijing, the broken hand suffered at last year’s worlds, knee and hip problems. Beyond that, Sergerie was guarded about what she called her “health issues.”
“I don’t really talk about it yet. I probably will eventually but I keep that to myself because I’m still not over it emotionally,” she said. “It’s still difficult for me. Not today.”
Her coach, Alain Bernier, admitted he was surprised when his 27-year-old pupil stepped onto the mat here.
Although she won her first match, it was only by a score of 1-0 and Sergerie hadn’t looked particularly spry. Everyone figured it was simply nerves and that Sergerie would come around.
The situation only got worse in the second match against the lanky Franka Anic.
“You felt for the second match it would be good. It was better [but] sometimes with the stress, it just went like this,” Bernier said, using his right hand for a downward gesture.
Sergerie was brimming with confidence heading into Beijing. She had chunks of that beaten out of her before London. The one thing it forced her to do was consider life without the high hard thrills of taekwondo. She had to come up with a new plan, one that would help her leave the mat when the time was right. She didn’t announce she was officially done with the Olympics but that long, emotional hug with her mother sure made it appear that was the case.
“One thing I have realized after these last few years after being sick and everything is that I love this sport,” Sergerie said. “I’m not doing it for other people; I’m doing it for the right reasons. I’ll keep doing it one year at a time and see what happens. But really, it’s too soon to say.”
And what is it she wants to do after taekwondo?
“I want to be a vet. I love animals.”
She smiled as soon as she said it.