Laetitia Guapo is number 1 but that's not enough

French 3x3 basketball player Laëtitia Guapo during FIBA 3x3 European Cup against Hungary.
French 3x3 basketball player Laëtitia Guapo during FIBA 3x3 European Cup against Hungary.

After winning the 3x3 Basketball  European championship with France in the summer 2019, Guapo became world number 1 in the sport, which will be featured for the first time at the Olympic Games next summer. The French player spoke to Tokyo2020 about her unwavering determination and the dreams she still has to fulfil.  

She climbed the ladder of success as fast as she runs on court.

When Laetitia Guapo lifted the 3x3 basketball European champion’s trophy in 2019, she had only joined the French national team only a few months prior.

The 25 years-old, whose incredible speed and endurance were highlighted in the Anatomy of... - an Olympic Channel series - quickly after won her very first international trophy, inching her way to the top of the individual ranking. She is now world number 1 , and two of her teammates, Migna Touré and Ana Maria Filip, have all climbed the top podium alongside her.

A special endurance

Guapo could progress rapidly in the 3x3 game because she found a style which perfectly fits her physical skills. When playing a 3x3 tournament, it lasts several 10 minutes games per day, at a high intensity.

“I loved it right away because I believe my qualities fit the 3x3 style,” confirmed Guapo in an interview with Tokyo2020. “When there is a tight game, I know I can put the next gear in the last three minutes, when the opponents are unable anymore. That’s often when we make the difference."

Resistance is key in 3x3. If you need evidence, the final of the European Championships against Spain alone proves it: France won in overtime by only a two-point (14-12) difference including a buzzer beater to retain their title. In such moments, Guapo is a player you want on your team.

Guapo can run a 9.3km road race in 35.41 minutes, a time she made in Clermont-Ferrand back in 2019. Her average speed was 15.64km/h, which would put her in the top 50 at the 10km women’s national championships that same year.

And she could do that without doing any specified training.

Adrenaline - her drug

Now she is aiming for Tokyo 2020 which she calls: “My goal, my dream”.

Despite a bronze medal at the last World Championships followed by a gold at the last two European Championships, France still needs to go through the Olympic qualifying tournament in May 2021 to get their ticket to Japan.

With the Russian Federation, People's Republic of China, Mongolia and Romania already qualified due to their world ranking, only three tickets to the Olympic Games are left up for grabs at the qualifying tournament.

And Guapo will do everything she can to qualify her country, no matter what the challenges they need to face.

"When we knew we were not yet qualified and had to go through this qualifying tournament, we saw it as an obstacle, but one we could overcome. It was just one more on top of the lockdown and the postponement. But none said the path would be easy! That actually will make it even nicer if we make it…”

The road is not that straightforward but Guapo never chooses the easy way out. Being comfortable is not really her thing. She likes to always have that adrenaline rush, which is something she has been missing during lockdown.

Even when she was still training, she said “this adrenaline rush which comes when you go over your own limits”.

I had 1.5 hours of lessons and then I’d go back to Charnay for training.

After that, I had lunch in my car and would drive again to Lyon for my afternoon lessons.

Being number 1 as a reward for her determination

Just a few years back in 2018, when she was still playing for the 5x5 club of Charnay in the women’s second division, it had already been a matter of pushing her limits. In parallel to her highly-demanding athletic life, Guapo was also trying to pass her exams in the hopes of becoming a physical education teacher.

“I wanted to have a back-up," she said.

She was following a rhythm where she was already pushing herself to such a level that any normal person would have probably given up.

“I was waking up at 5:30 a.m. to drive an hour to get to Lyon, where I had been studying. I had 1.5 hours of lessons and then I’d go back to Charnay for training. After that, I had lunch in my car and would drive again to Lyon for my afternoon lessons. I could have chosen to sleep in the morning but I do not regret my choice even a second.”

However, back then the native of Clermont-Ferrand already had the chance to be part of France's national 3x3 team. She rejected the offer because she wanted to finish her studies.

A year later, she finally joined the French national team, won her first title and became world no. 1 player.

“It gives me massive pride. It’s a reward for my determination. But I don’t forget that this number 1 spot would have never been possible without my team and the Federation," she added.

Everything’s possible

Insatiable, Guapo wants to win and more.

To do so, in 2020 she signed for Tango Bourges Basket, in the central French city of Bourges. The 5x5 club has 11 National championships, 3 Euro Leagues, among other trophies.

Born in Clermont Ferrand, not too far from Bourges, Guapo followed Tangos when she was younger and even attended some games.

“I was coming here to watch games since I was a kid and it was just a dream to play in such a team," she said.

Leaving a relatively modest club (Charnay) to join one of the biggest teams in Europe, Guapo gave herself a new exciting challenge, and clearly one she was up for looking at her stats from the start of the season. After five League games, she already averaged 15.2 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.6 assists, a remarkable performance which makes her the second best scorer of her team.

And with Paris 2024 not too far away, the dream of every French athlete will be to take part in a home Olympic Games.

“I will be 29 and I will see by then if I can carry on. But it’s definitely somewhere in my mind!”

No one would doubt that Guapo can make it, as everything is possible for this talented athlete. She may even be trying her luck for the Los Angeles 2028 marathon.

“Why not!” she laughed, “I love being challenged!”

Anatomy of a Basketball Player: The Incredible Stamina of Laetitia Guapo
08:47

We took French 3x3 basketball player Laetitia Guapo and examined her unique physical characteristics in a sports science lab to find out the what it takes to be FIBA's world number 1 ranked female basketball player. With the help of Olympian Lolo Jones, each episode of our sports science original series Anatomy of studies the powers and physiques of an elite athlete to find out what makes them special in their sport.

  • Laura Gallagher at the 29th FIG Trampoline Gymnastics World Championships Sofia, Bulgaria, 07-10 November 2013
    Exclusive

    Laura Gallagher: Bouncing back 

  • Daniel Rowden of Great Britain competes in the Men's 800m Qualifying Heat 4 during the 24th European Athletics Championships on 9 August 2018. This event formed part of the first multi-sport European Championships (Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images for European Athletics)
    Exclusive

    Daniel Rowden: In the footsteps of the greats 

  • Kevin Mayer of France reacts in the Men's Decathlon Shot Put during day six of 17th IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 at Khalifa International Stadium. (Photo by Maja Hitij/Getty Images)
    Exclusive

    Kevin Mayer: Injury-free and ready to work