Feature | 3x3 Basketball

Laetitia Guapo - Number 1, but that's not enough

The world's best 3X3 Basketball player on becoming European champion with France, signing for an historic 5X5 team, the chance of an Olympic debut at Tokyo2020 and competing in a home Games at Paris 2024

By Guillaume Depasse ·

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

Laetitia Guapo lifted the 3X3 basketball European champion’s trophy in 2019 just months after joining the French national team.

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

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Guapo's special endurance

Guapo was able to progress rapidly in her game because of her ability to cope with playing several 10-minute games per day during 3X3 tournaments, all at high intensity.

“I loved it right away because I believe my qualities fit the 3X3 style”, confirms 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 with only 2 points difference and a buzzer beater to retain their title (14-12). In such moments, Guapo is way above everybody else.

Practically speaking, Guapo can run a 9.3km road race in 35,41 min, a performance she made in Clermont-Ferrand back in 2019. Her average speed was 15.64 km/h, which would put her in the top 50 at the 10 km Women’s National championships that same year. She does it all without any specific running training.

Adrenaline - her drug

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

Despite securing a bronze medal at the last World Championships, and gold medals at the last two European championships, the French team still need to go through the Olympic qualifying tournament in May 2021 to get their ticket to Japan.

Only the Russian Federation, People's Republic of China, Mongolia, and Romania are already qualified for the women's event, thanks to their world ranking. Three more tickets are still at stake at the Olympic qualifying tournament. Guapo will do everything she can to net one for her country, no matter the difficulties in front of them.

"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 (coronavirus) lockdown and the postponement. But no-one 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”.

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Being number 1 as a reward for her determination

Just a couple of years ago, when she was still playing for the 5X5 club of Charnay in the women’s second league, it was already a matter of exceeding her previous limits.

In parallel to her highly-demanding athletic life, Guapo was also trying to pass her exams in the hope of becoming a physical education teacher. “I wanted to have a back-up”, she says.

She was following a rhythm where she was already pushing herself to a level that many people wouldn't have been able to maintain.

“I was waking up at 5:30am to drive an hour to get to Lyon, where I had been studying."

"I had one-and-a-half 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." - Laetitia Guapo

"I could have chosen to sleep in the morning but I do not regret my choice even a second.” she added.

The native of Clermont-Ferrand had already been given the chance to be part of the 3X3 French national team. She rejected the offer because she wanted to finish her studies.

A year later, she finally represented her country, won her first title, and became world number 1 player.

“It’s a 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 adds.

Everything’s possible

Insatiable for success, Guapo wants to win and more. To do so, in 2020 she signed for les Tangos, the team of Bourges, a city located in the Centre of France.

The 5x5 team boasts 11 National championships and 3 Euro League crowns, and their aim every year is to secure the national title and keep qualifying for the top club competition in Europe.

Guapo was following the Tangos when she was younger, and made the two-hour journey from her hometown to attend some games in the le Prado gym. “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 confirms.

Leaving a relatively modest club (Charnay) to join one of the most important team in Europe, Guapo gave herself a new exciting challenge, which she did not take long to overcome, as her stats from the start of the season shows. After five League games, she already averaged 15.2 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.6 assists, a remarkable performance which makes her the 2nd best scorer of her team behind Alexia Chartereau.

Beyond representing their nation at Tokyo 2020, the dream of many French athletes will be to take part at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, at home soil.

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

No one would doubt her ability to make it, as everything seems possible for this talented athlete. She may even be trying her luck for the Los Angeles 2028 marathon.

“Why not!”, she laughs out loud. “I love being challenged!”

This article was first published on Tokyo2020.org