“I have always taken sport as a game”

By Nathaniel Herzberg

Posted today at 12:54 a.m.

Vice-Olympic decathlon champion in 2016, in Rio de Janeiro, world champion the following year in London, world record holder in the discipline, Kevin Mayer represents one of the main French chances of an Olympic title in athletics at the Tokyo Games . 29-year-old jack-of-all-trades, born into a family of sportsmen, he returns on a journey guided by the love of effort, the fear of boredom and the refusal to choose.

I wouldn’t have gotten there if …

… If it weren’t for my brothers. We always had the same interests. Their presence multiplied all the discoveries. My big brother had a passion for something and I copied it. He loved jumping off cliffs, I followed him, he took up archery, I shot, he went running, I ran. He even made me test some stuff before him. A slightly exposed cliff in Croatia, for example. Thomas let me walk past, I must have been 11 years old, my mother says it all the time. I sharpened my mind, let’s say… enterprising and my taste for that adrenaline rush that you get from sporting competition and surpassing oneself.

So they are the taste for sport?

No, as soon as I walked, I ran. I was hyperactive. And in a bad mood if I didn’t exert myself. With a sports educator father and a PE teacher mother, I would say that I came across the right parents, given my profile. When I was 2, my parents put me on skis, gave me a tennis racket. I hurtled down the slopes in my pedal car. I don’t remember when I first started loving sports. I think it was in my genes.

A game or already a competition?

A game. I have always taken sport as a game. Adversity makes it possible to surpass oneself and to feel even more pleasure in this game. And not the other way around. Playing sports to win and finding your only pleasure is really not my philosophy.

A cool approach?

Not really, no. My brother was cool, I always wanted to learn more. In tennis, I never stopped. I walked to the club, played all weekend, against anyone. In the supermarket shelves, I repeated my forehands. I have never been able to do something halfway.

Read also Athletics: Kevin Mayer breaks world record in decathlon

Did your parents imagine you as a top athlete?

In tennis, yes, there was a lot of expectation on their part. They thought I could go far, I knew it. I did eight years. But I got too nervous, I lost against weaker players, I no longer took pleasure. They understood this and told me that I had the right to stop. Then I tried other sports: swimming, rugby, badminton, handball, gymnastics… My parents accompanied me in competition but it was just to have fun, there was no longer the idea to make me a great sportsman.

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