Koumba Larroque (right) (Photo/Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
As of today, we under 50 days from the start of wrestling at the Olympic Games. Over the next 50 days, we'll bring you one profile per day of a decorated international contender. Make sure you get to know the wrestlers that Team USA will compete against in Tokyo.
6/14/21 - Haji Aliyev (Azerbaijan)
6/13/21 - Ningning Rong (China)
6/12/21 - Bajrang Punia (India)
6/11/21 - Frank Staebler (Germany)
6/10/21 - Geno Petriashvili (Georgia)
Though she has become a staple of the Senior Women's Freestyle circuit and already has a pair of world medals to her credit, Koumba Larroque is still only 22 years old. She won't turn 23 until late August, after the Olympic Games. Larroque is one of the current and rising stars in the women's ranks and could be on the scene for multiple Olympic cycles. What makes Larroque's recent run even more impressive is that she competes for a country (France) that regularly churns out world medalists. Prior to Larroque's world bronze in 2017, only four other women have medaled in the preceding decade.
Key Wins: Blessing Oborududu (2021 Poland Open, Finals), Meerim Zhumanazarova (2021 Poland Open; Semis), Danielle Lappage (2021 Poland Open; Quarters), Anna Schell (2021 Poland Open; Round of 16, 2019 Poland Open; Final), Tamyra Mensah-Stock (2018 World Championships; Semi), Yudaris Sanchez Rodriguez (2017 U23 World Championships; Quarterfinals), Buse Tosun (2019 World Championships; Repechage, 2018 European; Semi, 2017 U23 World Championships; Round of 16), Martina Kuenz (2017 World Championships; Bronze Medal), Anastasia Bratchikova (2017 World Championships; Repechage), Elis Manolova (2017 European; Bronze Medal), Khanum Velieva (2021 European; Final, 2017 U23 World Championships; Semi), 2017 European U23; Semi), Jenny Fransson (2017 Klippan Lady Open; Finals), Naruha Matsuyuki (2017 U23 World Championships; Final, 2017 Klippan Lady Open; Semi)
Key Losses: Khanum Velieva (2020 Individual World Cup; Quarters), Blessing Oborududu (2020 Matteo Pellicone; Repechage), Tamyra Mensah-Stock (2020 Matteo Pellicone; Quarters), Alla Belinska (2019 World Military Games; Quarters), Battsetseg Soronzonbold (2019 World Championships; Repechage), Jenny Fransson (2019 World Championships; Round of 16), Alla Cherkasova (2020 European; Quarters, 2018 World Championships; Final), Sara Dosho (2017 World Championships; Round of 16), Anastasia Bratchikova (2018 European; Final, 2018 Nikola Petrov; Round of 16, 2017 European; Qualification)
The Age Group Years (2013-15)
Koumba Larroque hit the international scene in 2013 as a 14-year-old and took eighth place at the European Championships. That was the extent of her travel outside of her native, France, for the year, but her experience in 2013 paid dividends just a year later. During a three-month span in 2014, Larroque earned silver medals at the European and World Championships, before taking bronze at the Youth Olympic Games. Fellow young prodigy and future U23 world champion Grace Bullen (Norway) defeated Larroque in the finals of the continental and world championships and was victorious at the Youth Games.
While still Cadet-eligible, in 2015, Larroque entered the European Junior Championships and was fifth at 63 kg. Later that year, Larroque claimed gold at both the European and World Championships, at the Cadet level. In the gold medal match, at Cadet Worlds, Larroque downed Russia's Khanum Velieva, who has been a longtime rival. We'll document it later, but the two have exchanged wins against each other for the better part of six years. There was no doubt about the result this time. In fact, Larroque put together 10-0 techs against all four of her opponents at the 2015 Cadet World Championships, including American Kayla Marano. Larroque may not have realized it that time, but 2015 marked the final full competition slate outside of the Senior-level for the young Frenchwoman.
The Takeover (2016-18)
Though just 17 for the bulk of the 2016 campaign, Larroque would primarily compete at Senior-level competitions for the remainder of the year and beyond. Her debut against Senior competition was an inauspicious bronze-medal winning performance at the Grand Prix of Paris. In the Spring of 2016, Larroque hit a pair of Olympic Qualification tournaments and took bronze in both instances. Had she made the finals in either event, she would have qualified France for the 2016 Olympic Games at 63 kg. Since Larroque was so young, she dabbled in the Junior division and won her first European Junior title in June. Later that year, in front of a home crowd in Macon, France, Larroque became the first French Junior in 15 years to claim a world title. Vanessa Boubryemm accomplished the feat in 2001 at 54 kg. Larroque's gold medal came at the expense of China's Yue Han, who would go on to earn world bronze at the Senior level, just a year later.
The 2017 season started the way 2016 did for Larroque, in France at the Grand Prix of Paris. This time she left with a gold medal. A few weeks later, Larroque grabbed another gold at the Klippan Lady Open. In Sweden, she defeated Swedish Olympic bronze medalist and 2016 World Champion Jenny Fransson in the championship bout. It was a sign of things to come as 2017 ended up being a breakout year for Larroque. She would finish 2017 with five gold medals and only lost twice all year. Between March and May, Larroque competed in the European Championships at three different age groups. She won gold at the Junior and U23 divisions and settled for bronze at the Senior level. The lone loss of the bunch came to Anastasia Bratchikova (Russia), who would be a thorn in Larroque's side over the years.
Next on the agenda was the World Championships, which marked Larroque's first time competing at the event on the Senior level. After suffering an early loss to the eventual gold medalist, Sara Dosho (Japan), Larroque battled back and got a measure of revenge against Bratchikova and then defeated Martina Kuenz (Austria) to claim the bronze medal.
In her final event of 2017, Larroque emerged victorious at the U23 World Championships against a loaded field. Before downing Japan's Naruha Matsuyuki, Larroque scored another win over Velieva, along with future U23 World Champion Yudaris Sanchez Rodriguez (Cuba), and Buse Tosun (Turkey).
2018 saw Larroque continue her upward trajectory as one of the top contenders at the Senior level. Though she ultimately would compete at the World Championships at 68 kg, Larroque did toy with 72 kg's at multiple events that year. She got a tune-up early in the year, competing in the Indian Pro League. In her first individual event of the year, Bratchikova proved to be pesky and handed her a loss in the Round of 16 at the Nikola Petrov. Once again, Larroque competed in multiple age groups at the continental championships. She was relegated to the silver medal at the Senior European Championships, but won gold at the U23 tournament. For the second time in 2018, Bratchikova handed her a loss, which came in the Senior finals. Sandwiched between the two European events were the World Military Games. Competing for the first time in this event, Larroque walked away with the gold at 72 kg. She would stay at the weight for Junior Worlds and grabbed her second title, which occurred in Trnava, Slovakia.
After three straight gold medal performances, Larroque was primed and ready for Senior Worlds. She cruised through her first few matches before meeting American star Tamyra Mensah-Stock in the semifinals. Larroque was able to get by Mensah-Stock, who was the aggressor for the majority of the bout, a defensive struggle, 2-1. Her finals bout was the complete opposite, though she was on the wrong end of a 15-10 shootout against Alla Cherkasova (Ukraine).
The Rollercoaster (2019-Present)
Growth on the wrestling mat doesn't always occur in a linear fashion. Sometimes for two steps forward is one step back. After two incredible years (2017 and 2018), Larroque dealt with lingering injuries and wasn't able to put together the same type of consistency of years prior. Larroque was out of action from the World Championships in October of 2018 to the Poland Open in August of 2019. Though she won in Poland, Larroque ended up losing to Fransson in the Round of 16 at the World Championships. Later she fell again to Mongolian Battsetseg Soronzonbold, which dashed any medal hopes. Just over a month after world, Larroque would enter the World Military Games. There she lost to Alla Belinska (Ukraine) in the quarters and did not medal.
Larroque was able to compete twice before the Covid Pandemic struck in 2020 and those results were not up to her usual standards. Mensah-Stock and Blessing Oborududu both defeated her at the Matteo Pellicone and then Cherkasova stopped her in the quarters of the European Championships.
After a nine-month break in competition, Larroque returned to action at the Poland Open, in late 2020, and responded with a gold medal. In December, she competed at the Individual World Cup and fell to old-rival Velieva. When the Russian missed out on the finals, Larroque was eliminated.
Since the calendar has turned to 2021, Larroque has shown signs of her 2018 form. She made the finals of the Olympic Qualifier, which secured her place in Tokyo for the first time. At the 2021 European Championships, Larroque met Velieva, yet again, but this time was victorious. Last week, Larroque entered the Poland Open and ended up winning over a bracket full of hammers. In succession, she took out 2019 European silver medalist Anna Schell (Germany), 2018 World silver medalist Danielle Lappage (Canada), Individual World Cup champion Meerim Zhumanazarova (Kyrgyzstan), and Oborududu.
With a showing like Larroque put on in Poland, she displayed she's ready to be considered a gold medal favorite at 68 kg in Tokyo. Looking back at her losses from 2019-20, none of them were against "bad" opponents, so while her placements at those events may stick out, they weren't as poor as they seem.