World Cup in Egypt: Gauthier Mvumbi, Shaquille O’Neal of handball

“El gigante”. Thus Gauthier “the giant” Mvumbi presents himself on his Instagram account. And very daring one who dares to contradict him. 1.95 m, 137 kg. The guy imposes it. A second row of rugby? Missed. A nightclub bouncer? Always not. Mvumbi is a Leopard, pivot of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) team which plays the World Handball Championship, in Egypt (January 13 – 31).

For a week now, the colossus has lived a timeless experience. The DRC’s first historic participation in the World Championship and an unexpected buzz on social networks. Last Friday, it took him 11 minutes to talk about him during the defeat of his team against Argentina (28-22). For his faultless (4/4 shooting). But above all for its strength and agility, despite being overweight which contrasts with the usual more athletic sizes.

His daily reality: Dreux, in the fourth division

“We are often surprised,” confides the 26-year-old Golgoth, dumbfounded by the collective enthusiasm around his case. Success ? I find it hard to realize. “Become in spite of himself the attraction of the competition, he even caught the attention of his idol Shaquille O’Neal, legendary NBA pivot who martyred the defenses in the 1990s and 2000s, also thanks to his XXL build (2.16m, nearly 150 kg). The American apostrophized him on Instagram: “What’s going on, it seems that you are the Shaq of handball? “” It’s a dream come true, I do not believe it “, then reacted the handball player.

Like O’Neal, Mvumbi “uses [s]we jig as an asset, he explains. In terms of power, this is a big advantage. Afterwards, of course, in terms of my speed, it is sometimes a little complicated. “

Far from enlightenment and popular success, the guy’s daily reality is that of anonymity. That of the Nationale 2 (4th division). After seven seasons at Vernouillet (Yvelines, N 1), he joined last summer the club next to his birthplace, Dreux (Eure-et-Loir), where he is unanimous. “In addition to being a nice person, he’s an excellent player,” says Roland Signorini, president of the DAC. In N 2, he walks, despite his stature which makes him a special case. It’s hard to miss it on a field! “

“He didn’t have the great career he should have had”

Before flying to Egypt, this graduate of a professional baccalaureate in electrical trades, former education assistant in high school and college, planned to follow training in a driving school. His career, however, could have been very different. When he arrived at the Créteil training center, at the age of 18, in 2012, he worked alongside Nedim Remili and Hugo Descat, now in the French team, and made an impression.

“We were looking for him at the Chartres hope center,” recalls his coach at the time, Franck Chupin. He had enormous potential. He was able to defend, to attack, had an impressive flexibility and explosiveness. I had rarely seen such a player. But his overweight is then an obstacle. “He was too heavy, he already weighed 120 kg and could not make the necessary sacrifices for the very high level. We did everything with his big brother to get him on track, a nutritionist accompanied him but it was not enough. It’s a waste. He didn’t have the great career he should have had. “

“I was not mentally ready,” Mvumbi admits today. I was young. It did not go as I hoped. It’s life. “” He has suffered from pain and self-pity, adds Horda, his fiancée. Regarding his weight, it was sometimes difficult for him, personally and sportingly. Today, he takes a little revenge on life. “

“I take advantage of every moment”

If he is living a daydream with the DRC today, it is thanks to the enlargement – from 24 to 32 teams – of the world stage in Egypt and to a seventh and last qualifying place won at the last African Championship ( CAN), in Tunisia, a year ago. After three CAN and the African Games, the Franco-Congolese discovers a new world, under the colors of the nation of his parents, originally from Kinshasa. “It is a great pride to carry the name of my father loud and clear, he confesses”

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On Sunday, the Leopards challenged the great Denmark. “A consecration and an honor”, for the coach Francis Tuzolana, also coach of Mvumbi in Dreux. Faced with the world and Olympic champion, they were no match. Defeat 19-39. “The match was difficult, admits el Gigante, author, again, of 4 goals. But we fought. It’s great to challenge the best players on the planet. The future of the Congolese in the competition will now be played against Bahrain on Tuesday. A success would open the doors to the main round for them. A historic feat within their reach. The following ? Gauthier Mvumbi prefers to play epicureans. “I live day to day and I enjoy every moment. I have a competition to finish. Then we’ll see. “

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