Marc-Antoine Olivier, Olympic bronze medalist in the 10 km in Rio, is competing in Budapest for the European Open Water Championships, with the 5 km on Wednesday and the 10 km on Thursday. Unlike the 2017 Worlds, the open water events do not take place in the waters of Lake Balaton, but in Lake Lupa, on the outskirts of Budapest, whose temperature has just exceeded the regulatory 16 degrees. Winner of the Doha World Cup stage on March 13, after a year without international competition, the nearly 25-year-old Northerner wants to once again “mark the spirits” in the face of the gratin of world open water, while the opportunities to face rivals Tokyo will be scarce this season. Marc-Antoine Olivier will then continue with the basin events (800-1500 m).
Marc-Antoine Olivier, what state of mind are you in at these European Championships, knowing that there will not be a lot of 10 km to swim until the Games?
The idea is to seek victory and put pressure, as we did in Doha. Show that the work done is there. Casually, the last two 10 km in international competition, I won them, so we have to stay on this momentum until the Games. It is important to mark the spirits on these European championships in view of the Games. Even if the context will be different from the Games because we will swim in a neoprene wetsuit in Budapest, due to the water temperature (around 18 degrees), while in Tokyo it will be without (water around 30 degrees in Japan). But this is not a reason not to mark the spirits on these European championships.
Why is this psychological aspect, to mark the spirits, so important? These European Championships could only be a preparation for the Games …
It’s part of the preparation, but we haven’t had an international competition in the European or world championship style for two years (Worlds in Gwangju, South Korea, in 2019) so we can’t wait to swim these championships. . We are a long distance discipline, we are not like in a pool, each in our line, and the psychological aspect plays a lot at the start. When we are in the call room, I can tell you who will perform well in the race. It can be seen by looking, in the gestures that we can have. It’s important to have this advantage there before the race.
We feel that this is an aspect that particularly appeals to you …
I like to play with it. It’s been five years now since I left the top 5 in the world so that puts pressure on others. This game begins as soon as we arrive at the competition venue. We all train in the same place and we see the coaches of other nations, when we do a little extended series, try to take our times, see how we swim and in what form we are. This psychological pressure exists as soon as we arrive in Budapest.
Especially since the plateau in Budapest looks like the best and what you will find in Tokyo …
The European level is very high. Two years ago, at the last world championships, the podium was European, the fourth was also a European. Europe dominates the discipline and it’s a bit of a foretaste of the Olympic Games that we will have this week. The main rivals will be there. In Doha, the two Germans were missing, who will be present in Hungary. It will be interesting to see what level they are at.
“The priority is always open water”
In Budapest, you will do open water (5 km and 10 km) with the basin events the following week (800 and 1500 m). With what idea behind the head and what ambition?
The priority is always open water. We will do it step by step. The first week is the open water races, this is my playground and this is where I want to go for victories. Why I went to the pool, simply because the best in open water are very strong in the pool. They are world champions in the 800 (the Italian Gregorio Paltrinieri) and the 1500 (the German Florian Wellbrock) and it is also important to go on their playing field to put the pressure on them. So first I want to get the most wins in open water and then why not win one or two finals in the pool.
With the idea of doing the same thing at the Olympics, where it will be the other way around: first the basin events and then open water?
It is still in reflection. It is according to what I will do at the European Championships, and to see also if I present to the Olympic qualifications for the basin in Chartres (June 15 to 20). We will see what we decide to do with Philippe (Lucas, his trainer in Montpellier).