I would have liked to say that these championships had been the best moment of my life ……..unfortunately, the competition didn’t go as I had imagined. Some say that I went onto the water too soon, others say that I was too hyped-up and others again that I wasn’t hyped-up enough ……On the day of the prelims, I was calm and clear-thinking. I felt good on the water. I was the first to run in my heat, just before Claire O’Hara and Ruth Gordon, the top players in our discipline. Two 45-second runs, no margin for error… I was the only one to drop in for an opening move. The head judge’s thumb went skyward and I threw myself into the arena. The time flew by …. I did my Loop, my Space Godzilla right and then the Space Godzilla left then flushed. I started the figures again …. as the bell rang I threw a Phoenix Monkey …. too late. I’m 7th and there are still three heats of 5 girls to go. I waited for each girl to run, hoping to keep my place …. All the guys in Team France were calculating points and silently hoping for a miracle…. I came 11th, missing a place in the semi-finals by 3 points…. a tough fall. I had been one of the favorites and I didn’t handle the pressure ….. that’s the harsh law of sport. You have to accept losing sometimes. It’s hard to describe what you feel when your dream collapses….despondency, disbelief, anger at yourself … then some-one pulls you into a hug, some-one else kisses you, three people surround me with comforting words, kind looks, my rivals show support and share my sadness.
In sport, there are victories and defeats but in Freestyle kayaking, there is a magic link which makes us feel good, part of a family, even in your most difficult moments. This feeling between athletes, this respect among adversaries and this fraternity all touched me deep. I’ll never forget it and I now know that that is the greatest of all victories.
This trip to the States was centered around the World Championship and my objective was to get to the final. The pressure was on and I constantly had my objective in mind. But that didn’t hinder me from making the most of each and every minute there. This was my first transatlantic crossing and my first time on American soil.
I’ll never forget :
- Getting organized for travelling by train and plane with a kayak !
- The impressive American cars and greasy food (my first dripping hamburger!) compared to our French food.
- A convivial opening ceremony and discovering new things with the Cherokees.
- Meeting and having fun times with Japanese girls (Mitoko and Itomi), American gals (Adrienne and Emily), Canadian folk and … the list is endless !
- Boiled peanuts and Bud Lite.
- Smoky Natural Park’s fog and luxuriant flora.
- My 25th birthday in The Bryson City Cork and Bean – the best restaurant in the United States of America – and meeting Kim, the owner.
- Training sessions and sessions banging the French drum to cheer the others on.
- Peanut butter and jam for breakfast !
- The amazing hole and top-notch organization. A huge THANK YOU to the ICF and the judges !
- The night-time semis and Mathieu Dumoulin’s mythic run (I can still feel the shivers in my spine).
- The Loser’s Party at the event bar and that magic feeling of all those nations having a beer together.
- Our young’un, Thomas Richard who hopped up onto the second step of the podium and brought and proud medal home for France.
Many thanks to all those who helped me be part of the challenge and especially LEVEL SIX, thanks to whom I paddled in top quality clothing.