Yes, obviously, flag bearer, it is something very prestigious. Afterwards, it takes so much energy. I remember Teddy Riner in Rio, he was amazing, I don’t know how he did it. The day before his competition – we were shooting the same day – he was trying to relax everyone, even his coach. And I had said to him: “But, you are shooting tomorrow, where are you going to find this energy? He had the experience, a mastery of his sport that allowed him to do so. I am not there yet. It takes extra strength and front medals, too.
Are you not, in a way, a standard bearer for Breton sportsmen?
Ah, me (very surprised)? I hadn’t thought of that (smile). Well, we don’t really know each other because we sometimes practice very different disciplines and in different places. We can sometimes meet at Insep and I see the results of the Bretons, of course. Well, it’s true that in the French team, no one is unaware that I come from Brittany (laughs).
You haven’t been licensed in the region for a long time. Is it a regret?
I left the Quimper club for the Orleans one since 2007. In Quimper, it was just great, I had a great trainer, I had a blast shooting against the boys but if I wanted to skip stages, to enter the French team, we had to find a more central place in France. To be able to easily go to training and show the national coaches that we exist, that we are motivated, we are somewhat obliged to leave Brittany. In Orleans, I haven’t been anywhere since we’ve been French champion almost every year. In addition to finding a large club there, there is a family atmosphere that reminds me of Quimper.
That many top Breton athletes are forced to leave the region to pursue their careers, does that make you sad?
It’s not specific to fencing or specific to the sport, you often have to go and find something more central, easier to get around. But we went to Dinard for an internship at the beginning of the year, in Brittany we find a certain freshness, a nice setting and great facilities. And I am attached to my region, I go home when I can to take a breath of fresh air.
What strong image do you keep of Rio 2016?
I remember when I walked into the Maracana for the opening ceremony in Rio, I was next to Tony Parker and he was enjoying the moment as much as I was. It’s just crazy to think that this champion who has won so much in basketball, with whom we have nothing in common, was as blown away as me. This is the JO effect.
What does it mean for you to practice one of the most “Olympic” disciplines in France?
It puts a little extra pressure every four years because you know you are expected and the lack of a medal in 2012 marked people. I especially remember the experience of some elders who have shown a beautiful path. But, if we compare to 20 years ago, today there are more nations who practice fencing, the cake is shared among more people …
Is the Olympic medal the missing line on your track record?
Yes, that’s exactly it and, due to the rarity of the event, only every four years, it would also be the most beautiful line. This will be the challenge, the objective of this summer and in a very particular context.
It was very hard to accept at first. When I was told, in March 2020, you are staying at home, I was not ready for that. Finally, I rested my body, my mind because there was only that to do. I found new ideas, especially on visualization, I regenerated parts of my body and I managed to make this moment finally benefit me. And when we were able to resume fencing, I was able to take full advantage of it.
How do you approach these Games, reduced in size and without an audience, without your family, your friends, those who had come in force to Rio?
They had already taken everything, their tickets, their hotel. For me, it’s not that bad. There may be less people or people who will not put too much atmosphere because these are the last recommendations. This goes beyond having loved ones in the stands. It’s being on an Olympic track, having a referee and an opponent and seeing what I’m capable of doing. I just want to focus on something very simple, very pure, the touch, the tactics, the technique and putting it all together.
I am no longer the same as in Rio. With the baggage I have today, the experience of confinement, I can’t wait to see how I will react, between impatience, fear, adrenaline and pressure.
This will be your third experience at the Olympics, after Beijing (substitute) and Rio (quarter-finals). In itself, already, a hell of a performance, right?
Yes, I realize that, it’s beautiful and I said to myself looking at how hard it was to be selected for some great athletes. I’m not the same as in 2016 and compared to Rio, where there was a total excitement, it will be completely different. With the baggage I have today, the experience of confinement, I can’t wait to see how I will react, between impatience, fear, adrenaline and pressure.
You have already beaten nine of the top 10 sabers at least once, you have a positive record against half of them and you finished 2nd in the only World Cup of 2021. Would you say that you are at a degree of experience and optimum level?
Yes, I feel stronger than the years before, with the unknown that nothing is known about the level of the girls in front. We in France have worked well and the group’s luck is to have been able to train with the opposition, to play quality matches. It’s an opposition sport and I’m going to retouch the blades of opponents that I haven’t touched for maybe two years for some, instead of every month. In the warm-up room, we will all look at each other and the key moment will be when the referee says: “Ready? Go! “.
For you, a great Olympic Games in Tokyo would be…
Games where I had the courage to play while being a strategist, smart, precise, that would already be enormous. Obviously, we all come to the Games to win, qualifying was so hard and, this time around, trying. And if there is that and I lose on someone stronger, well that’s also the madness of the Games in fact. I saw it in 2016. The medals are beautiful but it is not even for 0.01% of all those who are in the Olympic Village and I saw the distress of so many people while we were still living. something extraordinary. I no longer have any memory of the “team” in Rio, a total black hole (36-45 quarterback defeat against Italy) and I tell myself that these moments on an Olympic track are too rare not to be there. good memories.
You made La Marseillaise resound and brought back a lot of medals to France but, in silver, that brought you little, no?
Ah yes, fencing is not really a profitable sport (smile). Afterwards, some athletes are very active on social networks and with a lower track record than mine find more partners. But me, talking about fencing, I love it but showing my daily life is not my thing. But that’s okay, I’m living well, even though I capitalized less on my results.
How do you live thanks to fencing?
The Federation pays you and you have a bonus in case of medals. When we are twelve on a World Cup, it takes care of the travel for the four best classified. With the clubs, there are different arrangements. Orleans pays part of my rent, for example. With the partners, it varies and I work with Radio France, which pays me for my columns.
The public, some commentators do not know the pressure it is when you put down your ball and that you have the future of a country at the end of the foot. And me, I’m not saying that I know that but when you are in the final, with the team behind, and you have to put some touches, well your saber, it weighs four tons and more than a kilo.
The dual project: sport and studies, then sport and work, is almost essential for most Olympic athletes in France. When you compare to other sports in France or other nations, do you have any regrets?
No regrets because I learn a lot of things with the double hats. When I go to Asian countries and talk to the athletes, I see that they would like to do like me. “You’re lucky to do something else!” “Yes, but you have the chance to only do fencing.” They train twice as much as we do and get paid accordingly. But they are in training morning, noon and night and they don’t have that valve. I am very happy like that, but it is true that in a quest for optimal performance, a few months before the Games, I would have liked to only do fencing. After a big deadline, on the other hand, it is clearly a chance and I prefer my situation because I know where I will go after my career.
Sportswoman but also observer as a journalist, what would you like to see evolve concerning sport, which unites the whole country in an incredible way when there are victories?
Oh, there are a lot of things. On women’s sport, on Olympic sports, of course. And there is also something that has marked me recently. Before the Euro football, we heard about the France team: “We are strong! “And after the elimination:” They suck! I find that violent. The public, some commentators do not know the pressure it is when you put down your ball and that you have the future of a country at the end of the foot. And me, I’m not saying that I know that but when you are in the final, with the team behind, and you have to put some touches, well your saber, it weighs four tons and more than a kilo. It’s hard to live with and I would like a little more kindness in these times. From a god you pass to a draw! We all have to make progress on that.
Throughout your columns on France Info: have you explored the “Olympic soul”, the candidacy of Paris2024, the road to Tokyo: the Games in France, at the Grand Palais, in just three years, will you be?
(Laughs). Yes, for sure it’s something that speaks to me, that is in the back of my mind even if in the short term, I only watch Tokyo. My life in the France team started there. These were my second world championships (2010) but the first where the coach told me that I was starting and that I was going to shoot the next day (3rd by teams). So yes, there is something to do there. But it’s far, even if it’s only in three years, we have a team that is in full renewal, we will have a new coach after the Games. I’m growing or getting older, I don’t know how to put it, and in three years, would I be as competitive? And if I go, I want to be there because I would have something to bring to the group.
Birth on December 13 in Morlaix.
Begins the saber at Fencing Quimper Cornouaille with the fencing master Serge Larher.
European individual vice-champion in Moscow.
Journalist at Radio France.
World team champion in Wuxi and European individual vice-champion in Novi Sad.
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