Tuesday, June 2, 2020

"Faced with the continued Tour de France, the enthusiasm of the sportsman, the realism of the citizen"

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LTheir sports and goals differ, but not their concerns, with a lifestyle based on physical activity and a calendar programmed for months. Three top-level French athletes tell each week World their confinement: the judokate Madeleine Malonga, the cyclist Romain Bardet and the rugby player Antoine Dupont. Fifth episode of their notebooks, to be followed until the lifting of this sanitary measure against the epidemic due to the coronavirus.

Previous episodes

Romain Bardet: "After the euphoria of the announcement on the Tour de France, prudence catches me"

Romain Bardet, during the Tour de France 2019. ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT / AFP

ROMAIN BARDET, 29 YEARS OLD, RUNNER OF THE AG2R LA MONDIALE TEAM, FINISHED TWICE ON THE PODIUM OF THE TOUR DE FRANCE.

The announcement of the postponement of the Tour de France (from August 29 to September 20), there was light at the end of the tunnel! We managed to find a familiar environment, to project ourselves into a program. Then the euphoria of the first 48 hours gave way to a little more blur. Caution caught up with me. Let's be honest: at the beginning, I only wanted to hear that they had confidence in keeping the Tour de France going. But it remains subject to so many hazards!

We know that Christian Prudhomme (director of the Tour de France) refuses to go in camera – and it's a very good decision – but by September, we don't see any miracle medical treatment happening. It will therefore be necessary to respect very, very strong barrier measures; and the question arises as to whether they are compatible with the holding of an event like the Tour de France.

So it tempered my enthusiasm a bit. All questions about practical measures have not been lifted. No one can say whether the conditions will be met.

The closed doors of football matches are likely to be pronounced at least until 2021 and epidemiologists say that this is the only possible measure so that sporting events can take place. When I see the grandeur of the Tour, I find it hard to believe that a participant is never in contact with a carrier of the virus. So are we going to carry the virus around the country for three weeks, without necessarily knowing it?

Let's be honest: the peloton is a nest of potential contamination. We breathe on it, we touch each other, we sweat. On the bus, in our life, nothing is done against that. Massages, contacts in hotel restaurants … It is strictly impossible to comply with all the precautions.

So I have a sports enthusiasm and a realism as a citizen. I alternate between the two. The days after the Tour was announced were exhilarating. For the sportsman, the simple fact of backplanning, discussing the return to the road with the team, it gave meaning to training on home trainer, which are off-putting. It’s important to stay in that state of mind. We have every interest in acting as if the races could take place, knowing that this will not be 100% guaranteed.

There is one other thing that we have to talk about: there are still no doping controls, and that is worrisome. It's been ages since I was unexpectedly checked, I prefer not to tell you when. Long before confinement. I am not making any judgment, because the controls are done in an intelligent and strategic way, and I imagine that this is also a reason. I just wish we could have some fairness in the controls from here to the start of the race.

In recent years, with a mid-season tour, collecting blood data for the biological passport has been easier. There is an element of anxiety and uncertainty on this, and that is what is at stake in the resumption of competition in its entirety: all the conditions must be met.

Madeleine Malonga: "This period allows us to review our priorities"

Madeleine Malonga

MADELEINE MALONGA, 26 YEARS OLD, IS A WORLD JUDO CHAMPION IN THE 78 kg CATEGORY.

This year was entirely focused on my Olympic project. I was in the gap year of my nursing studies. With the postponement of the Olympics, I wonder about being able to make a second year of hyphenation in a row. Is it even possible?

I am in discussion on this subject with Gévrise Emane (triple judo world champion) who is training coordinator at Insep (National Institute for Sport, Expertise and Performance). I got it on the phone last week. I still have a third of my second year to validate. For that, I have to take courses, but also internships, which are always difficult to reconcile with training: during internships, I get up at 5.30 am, I am on internship from 6.45 am to 2.30 pm, I come home at 3 p.m. and go back to training at 4 p.m. It's a fast pace.

At the moment, since I am not enrolled in school because of my caesura, I cannot take advantage of this time of confinement. We are thinking about what to do next, but neither should I have an internship where I can become infected if I ever have to train at the same time.

Initially, I had to do the Olympics, take a vacation and resume classes on 1er October. I would have concentrated my internships in October, November and December. The postponement changes everything and as we do not yet know the new sports calendar, with the exception of the European Championships in November …

I am aware of my privileged life as a top athlete, but it will last another four to five years. Then you have to think about my future. This period allows you to review your priorities. When we announce the postponement of the Olympics, which was my top priority, it's a bit your life plan that changes. You have to adapt and explore different hypotheses.

Right now there is also uncertainty about the partnerships that help me a lot. I’m lucky to have a professional integration contract with customs until next January and an image contract with Engie. They did not formally comment on the extension of these contracts in 2021. No one told me "We are signing for next year" or "We stop everything". We advance day by day. I hope they will be renewed because they are precious partners for me, who help me to focus on my Olympic dream every day.

Since childhood, I dreamed of being a nurse with babies and children. Life goes on, we have opportunities. Customs can be one, I might like to take the competition internally. If I succeed, I can be a customs officer, and if I validate my years of study, I can also be a nurse. I will then have several pieces of luggage and several choices.

Antoine Dupont: "There is little point in drawing plans for the comet"

Antoine Dupont during training with the XV de France, in Oita, Japan, in October 2019.
Antoine Dupont during training with the XV of France, in Oita, Japan, in October 2019. CHRISTOPHE ENA / AP

ANTOINE DUPONT, 23 YEARS OLD, HALF OF THE BLUE MÉLÉE, IS FRANCE'S RUGBY CHAMPION IN TITLE WITH THE STADIUM TOULOUSAIN.

I know that in Toulouse the artisans have taken over the work of my future house, a town house that I am renovating. They try to cross paths as little as possible: one day, it's an electrician, the other day, it's a plasterer. I'm not sure which guidelines they follow.

In rugby, the recovery is not for now. But, we, it remains only sport, we are well aware. The whole society is in the dark. The more the time advances, the less the possibility of a recovery seems there.

Should we resume the season? Should we stop it? The club advised us not to take too much sides on this for the moment. Today, everyone goes there with their argument in public, but there is little point in drawing plans for the comet.

Impossible to know how the clubs will do. They want to avoid a big loss. In case of resumption, it will probably be necessary to take precautions, already for training: we play a contact sport, it is not as if we play tennis.

Two teammates are also the relay between my team and the players' union. Clément Castets and Thomas Ramos have weekly meetings with Provale (the national union of rugby players). A few days ago, the union emailed us several questions about the possibility of a takeover. He wants to know if we feel ready to play three games in ten days or to take only three weeks off this summer, for example.

Even after the deconfinement, in case of recovery, the club warned us that we could not train all together right away. It will probably be necessary to test to see if players have contracted the coronavirus, then to train in reduced numbers, to keep security measures. If, between players, we all pass it on … this is precisely what we want to avoid.

Like everyone else, I’ve also read articles about the possibility that the teams will finish the current season with their roster… next season. This does not seem to me to be very logical and would still seem difficult to imagine. Nothing has been voted in this direction, to my knowledge, so let's not talk about it either.

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