Torch Relay Stage 23: Taekwondo takes centre stage at Deux-Sèvres. GETTY IMAGES

Up to 90 torchbearers from different generations kept the Olympic relay rolling through France’s countryside on Sunday, passing the heart of the ‘Green Venice’ and honouring the martial art’s sporting heritage in the region, on its way to the Atlantic coast.

On Sunday the Olympic Torch journeyed through an exceptional region from Rhouars to Niort. Between its groves of hedged farmland, Marais Poitevin and picturesque villages, the torch passed through the pastoral and lush countryside. It also celebrated the attraction of sport in the department, such as the group relay organised by the French Taekwondo Federation in Bressuire. A total of 90 torchbearers participated throughout this Sunday.

Since the start of its journey, the Olympic Torch has travelled along many coasts and seashores, from the Mediterranean to coast of La Manche, and is poised to visit the shores of the Atlantic next week. In the meantime, on Sunday, it made a detour to Thouars, near the Thouet River. In Coulon, it descended the Sèvre Niortaise by boat, in the heart of the 'Green Venice' in the famed Marais Poitevin.

The day was also an opportunity to admire the local heritage and illuminate two castles: Thouars - the 17th-century Château des Ducs de La Trémoille, partially converted into a college - and the Château de Bressuire, the remains of which have stood the test of time since the 10th century. The Torch passed through the Porte Saint-Jacques, the symbol of Parthenay, and stopped off at the prestigious École Nationale des Sous-Officiers d'Active in Saint-Maixent-l'École, founded in 1963.

It also visited the impressively long (83 metres) and luminous l’Abbaye Royale de Celles-sur-Belles. The festivities ended in Niort, an opportunity to wind through the streets of the department's capital city. The Torch passed through the Clou Bouchet district before making its way to Port Boinot and the Musée du Donjon, which traces the city's history from the 12th century to the present day. The convoy's route concluded at Place Chanzy, where the celebration was held.

Sport is a mainstay in the Deux-Sèvres department, with many of its facilities awarded the 'Terre de Jeux 2024' label. Numerous events occur throughout the year, including the Coupe de rugby des collèges 79, the Highland Games world championship of traditional Scottish strength, and the Celles-sur-Belle handball clubs and Niort rugby club.

On Sunday, another sport took centre stage: taekwondo. A group relay dedicated to this martial art took place in Bressuire with Niort native Myriam Baverel, who was the silver medallist at the 2004 Athens Games as captain. Alongside her were 23 enthusiasts, including the oldest participant of the day, Moon-Ho Lee, former coach of the French national team, Emmanuelle Rantière, French veteran champion, and the promising and youngest participant on the day, 13-year-old Nahim Goktas Mazanto.

Like them, 90 Olympic Torch Bearers took their turn throughout the Deux-Sèvres region. All of them have had inspiring lives and destinies. Such is the case of Perrine Marcheteau, the final torchbearer of the day, who lit the cauldron. Perrine is a Red Cross volunteer who never strays too far from the basketball court. Her ambition today is to pass on her passion to younger players.

Among the torchbearers were Clément Garreau, French judo champion and member of an adapted group, Thomas Courjault, captain of his Regional level 1 football team, and Stéphanie Rose, who employs sport to combat rheumatoid arthritis. They also met several celebrities, including Sébastien Bichon, who won a cycling medal at the Sydney Paralympic Games and is now taking on a whole host of sporting challenges, and Fabrice Chagnon, French and European land sailing champion. The famous violinist and conductor Renaud Capuçon was also on hand in Niort.

On Monday, the Olympic Torch and all the Relay teams will enjoy a well-deserved rest day. On Tuesday, the torch will head to the Vendée, a land for nature lovers and lovers of sport. In particular, it will head for the Passage du Gois, which links the island of Noirmoutier to the coast, the Puy-du-Fou, and then Les Sables d'Olonne for another large-scale public celebration.