After a very frustrating Olympic experience in Rio, the French table tennis player wants, at the age of 26, to give the full measure of his talent in Tokyo, even if that should not be enough against the Chinese masters? ? ¦
Simon, how do you feel when you approach these Tokyo Games? Simon Gauzy: Everything is going well, I can’t wait for the competition to start because it’s been three good months that the preparation is focused e exclusively on the Games, and at some point, inevitably, we want to get down to business. Especially since the excitement has only increased since we set foot on Japanese soil.
Do you consider yourself to be better today than a year ago, when these Games were originally scheduled? A year ago, it is true that I was back to my best level and that I had performed well just before the pandemic shutdown. I was a little disappointed at the time. Afterwards, of course, given the context, I quickly put things into perspective, while still hoping that the Games would take place a year later. Which is the case today, under special conditions but at least they take place. Since the postponement, I have had a great club season in Germany. I also got good results internationally. So I would say that other than the initial disappointment, this postponement hasn’t changed much for me in terms of level of play.
TO?? what do you expect in Tokyo, especially in terms of atmosphere? Are you worried that these Games lack madness, fervor? I think most athletes are galvanized by the support of the public, by their fervor. TO?? Tokyo, it should not be counted on. Unfortunately, for a year, we have become accustomed to such a context, to this calm in the theaters. Now, it helps you stay focused and self-centered. But to choose, I would have preferred to play in front of a full hall.
My dream and my wish now, well beyond the result, are to be able to produce my best level there, which I had not been able to do in Rio.
What memories do you have of your first Games in Rio in 2016? It remains a bad experience for me. It was my childhood dream to participate, but I hadn’t imagined having a bad performance there. Suddenly, when that happens, the myth crumbles a bit and it hurts a lot. Despite this, I hope I have stored up some experience. I was very proud to have been able to represent France at the Games, but at the same time, I certainly don’t want to repeat the same performance in Tokyo. My dream and my wish now, well beyond the result, are to be able to produce my best level there, which I had not been able to do in Rio.
Did you put too much pressure on yourself? (Hesitates) Too much pressure, I don’t think so. I think I was not prepared enough mentally and psychologically for what to expect there. I am a big fan of sports and to meet athletes that I admired on television in the Olympic Village, it undoubtedly disturbed me a little and I did not know how to get over it of that. I was simply by my dream. But I don’t regret anything, because that’s also how we learn. I just don’t want to make the same mistakes again in Tokyo.
Is this the experience that has taught you the most so far in your career? The most learned, I don’t know, but it is the one that touched me the most in everything case. As a player, it’s the worst experience of my career so far. Much has happened since, whether on a personal or sporting level. I made a lot of progress, I made the World Top 10 at one point… I hope I can benefit from this unfortunate experience by being stronger at Tokyo, and better prepared mentally.
You are talking about the World Top 10. You have achieved several very great performances, but what do you lack to anchor yourself in this one (he is currently 19th in the world)? It’s true that I beat players on a regular basis of the Top 10. My best level is very high, which allows me to achieve the performances you mention. But aside from that, sometimes I just miss it altogether. In the first two laps, I’m too crumbly mentally compared to the pressure I’m putting on myself. I always tell myself that I have to honor my standing on the world chessboard. Suddenly, too often, my first laps are complicated and insufficient in terms of quality of play. But if I do, behind, my level increases. I’m working a lot on it to end it. It’s always difficult to produce your best play early on in a competition but I have to be able to do better, like players used to being in. the Top 10.
TO?? Tokyo, the two Chinese who will participate are extremely strong. No one can beat them.
On the Games, does the fact that there are only two Chinese players in the table offer better prospects? Is a podium more possible? Yes, totally. Mathematically, already, when there are only two, it leaves a place for the others on the podium. Over the last three Games, each time the final has been 100% Chinese and you have to go back to 2004 and South Korea’s title in Ryu Seung-Min to find an exception. And in Tokyo, the two Chinese who are going to participate are extremely strong. No one can beat them. Then, as far as I’m concerned, my goal will be to get to them, which will be a good sign. I want to get out of the traps before. Basically, behind the two Chinese, you have three favorites to complete the podium, and five players who can play spoilsport on a good day. I belong to this category. But I cannot say that I am aiming for a medal because I am too irregular and crumbly in some matches. A medal today seems too high for my current standing. Simply, if the opportunity presents itself and I play at my best, then why notâ ?? ¦
But compared to what you say, does that mean that you only play bronze at best behind the two Chinese representatives? You never play for bronze when you are a competitor. Arriving in the semifinals, in table tennis, however, we know that there is a good chance of facing a Chinese. Me, I am not playing for the medal, but I will try to seize an opportunity if it presents itself to me. And to answer your question, being realistic, yes, only the bronze medal seems really achievable.
Do you consider yourself to be in your prime now, or can you imagine that it will occur in, say, Paris in 2024? (Smile) I hope so. Obviously I’m already thinking about it because I would have an age, 29, when I could be at my best. It’s an almost perfect age to reach your peak. And if in addition in 2024 there is a new audience, I hope I can no longer hide myself by saying that I am not aiming for a medal, but that I could affirm it loud and clear. Now, if I don’t have a medal in Paris, but get one in Tokyo, that will be fine with me anyway (laughs).
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