Estelle Mossely celebrated her 24th birthday in style by punching her way into the history books as she became the first Frenchwoman to win Olympic boxing gold on Friday.
Mossely also saw her fiance Tony Yoka battle into the men’s super-heavyweight final less than an hour earlier and the pair plan to soon marry -- making it a particularly special 2016 for France’s latest heroine.
France is enjoying its best Olympics in boxing with the possibility of two more gold to come at the weekend for Yoka and Sarah Ourahmoune.
Yoka was watching from the stands still in the red vest he had fought in and with a white towel around his neck, and wiped away tears as Mossely edged a nervy split-points decision 2-1 over China’s Yin Junhua in their lightweight clash.
He then joined in as a small but vocal contingent of French staff and fans serenaded Mossely with “happy birthday”.
She said afterwards that gold made her feel “complete”.
“I had a lot of work to do: I’ve had to work with my coaches and my teams to get to this level. I’ve had to study a lot to really understand what I needed to do to become the best and I’m really happy to have made it.”
Mossely grabbed the initiative from the first bell but was down on the judges’ scorecards and in danger of seeing her birthday ruined.
“I didn’t expect to lose the first round and second round but it happens,” she said.
“I spoke to my coach and he said, ‘You’ve trained hard for this, you’re setting a good pace, you have good cardio,’ and he urged me on,” she said.
“So from there it was just all instinct, trying to give more and more and more. And it worked.”
Mossely was the deserved winner having been the aggressor in the opening exchanges and to the very end of the bout against Yin, who was in fits of tears later when she collected her silver medal.
On podium in sling
The French boxer began to turn the tide of the fight when she rattled Yin at the end of the second with a fierce right that catapulted the Chinese back towards her own corner.
Mossely was again on the attack at the end of the third, one left-right-left combination stunning the Chinese.
And the Frenchwoman came out all guns blazing at the start of the fourth and final round -- as Yoka bellowed his support and jumped up and down.
Mossely had eased into the final without breaking sweat after Russia’s Anastasiia Beliakova dislocated her left elbow in the first round of their semi-final on Wednesday.
The Russian was rushed out of the arena in tears and in a wheelchair, but returned to pick up her bronze on the podium, her arm in a sling and getting a huge ovation.
“It’s always very pleasant to have an Olympic medal around your neck but of course I was coming here for a medal of a different colour. Unfortunately what happened has happened but I’m very happy to have an Olympic medal,” said Beliakova.
Women’s boxing -- there are three weight categories -- made its debut at the London 2012 Games but the lightweight champion there, Ireland’s Katie Taylor, made an early exit from Rio.
Mira Potkonen of Finland, who beat Taylor, took home the other bronze medal.