He’s still out of breath as the interview begins. Barely out of his afternoon training session, 26-year-old Marc-Antoine Olivier takes the time to indulge himself. Although the open water events start late, on Saturday August 20, the Frenchman prefers to be positive. In Ostia, the founder is at home for these European swimming championships that take place in Italy until August 21.
It is in this city in the Roman suburbs, by the sea, where the Frenchman left his bags ten months ago with his partner Océane Cassignol. Sixth in the Tokyo Olympics in the 10 km, the native of Denain takes a slap, he who was in the sky before the Covid-19 shuffled the cards again. “At 90% I was sure of a podium finish, I had had an excellent season. And finishing 6th was very difficult. We certainly made small mistakes in preparation.“Therefore, a change of scene is necessary after having spent six years under the command of Philippe Lucas.
The swimmer initially joined Frédéric Vergnoux in the Canary Islands in September, failing to thrive there. During a World Cup stage in Barcelona he made contact with one of the best coaches on the planet, Fabrizio Antonelli. He is a crush. The Frenchman packs his bags for the week and leaves for Italy. Gregorio Paltrinieri (current world champion in the 10 km and triple European champion in the 5 km, 10 km and mixed relay), Domenico Acerenza (current world runner-up in the 10 km), all the cream of free water in the world works under the orders of the Roman technician. “Our entire group is qualified for the European Championship. And it is essential to have a great team around me to raise my level every year.Oliver explains.
Habits change, the daily life of the French too. “It’s a different world than here in France. There are specialized structures for swimming. Ostia is a mini-Insep [Institut national du sport, de l’expertise et de la performance] but focused on water sports“, explains Marc-Antoine Olivier who also takes advantage of the sea to carry out two sessions a week in real conditions, seven months out of twelve. A luxury.
“Philip [Lucas] we did the training, the physical preparation and everything that surrounded it, depended on us. In Ostia I have everything at my disposal. This year I had a dental infection. If I had done that in France, it would have taken me two or even three days to have the operation, and only if I had met the dentist. Here it was resolved in a few hours.”Marc Antoine Olivier
on franceinfo: sport
However, not everything is rosy. Sponsors dropped him after the Tokyo Olympics, the tricolor swimmer doesn’t speak English either, much less Italian. Last December, morale was at an all time low. “I was still asking myself a lot of questions, I was depressed and I didn’t know if I wanted to continue my career.”, recognizes, with a sigh, the two-time open water world champion in 2017 (5 km and mixed relay).
After years of working on mileage with Philippe Lucas, the Frenchman needs a break. He comes to a compromise with Antonelli. Olivier will swim less to perform better. “We do a lot more physical preparation out of the water. I also do a lot of sports. We can play basketball, beach volleyball, paddle tennis, sports that I didn’t practice before. againstIt has allowed me to be more complete physically. I feel better in the water“, details the northerner.
More powerful on the water, by his own admission, the Frenchman can thus broaden his tactical palette in the regatta. “I can favor the sprint and since I still have the box that I worked with Philippe [Lucas]I can always go out alone before it’s over, so I have more cards in hand to look for victory.“
If he did not complete a full season due to his late recovery and dental infection, the man with eight international medals was able to prove himself successfully at the World Cup in Budapest two months ago. A fourth place in the 10 km, won by Gregorio Paltrinieri, who is worth his weight in gold after all the hardships he has been through.
On the way to the Olympic Games in Paris in 2024, his main objective is in his new home, in Ostia, which has the opportunity to get back on track for his ascent. With lofty goals? “There are beautiful things to do, so you have to advance step by step“Explains, almost sheepishly, Marc-Antoine Olivier. But when we relaunch it about his ambitions, the response coalesces.The medal, I want it. And even victory. I dive for it.“
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