Tokyo Olympics: decathlete Kevin Mayer, the requirement of opposites

He says it himself, he is “Not at all the same” Kevin than in Rio. The decathlete, world record holder since 2018, has only one mission on Japanese soil: to win gold, which he missed in 2016 by winning the silver medal. Before coming into play, he warned: “I have progressed in a lot of events, especially the more technical ones. “

From the first act of this ten-part play, the 100m, which begins Wednesday, August 4 at 2 a.m. (French time), to the last, the 1,500 meters, Thursday at 2:40 p.m., he will have to excel and prove that he is has managed to accommodate opposites: power, speed, explosiveness, strength, flexibility and coordination. To become a perfect athlete, in short, whose body is shaped to be able to respond to all the demands of these dantesque 36 hours. Four races, three jumps, three throws.

“Nine explosiveness tests, and one endurance test”

Yes, Kevin Mayer, 29, isn’t quite the same anymore. His body is proof of that. “When we compare the photos of 2012 and 2021, we see that there are more legs”, laughs Alain Blondel, European decathlon champion in 1994. At the beginning of the 2010s, the native of Argenteuil (Val-d’Oise) is slender, particularly cut out for the middle distance.

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He flew over the 1,500-meter event at the World Junior Championships in Moncton (Canada) in 2010, setting a time that he would not beat neither in Rio in 2016 (4 seconds slower), nor during his world record. at Talence in 2018 (15 seconds). However, his results in pole vault or discus in 2010 are well below his future performances.

Because there is in reality in the decathlon “Nine explosiveness tests, and one endurance test, notes Mathilde Julla-Marcy, lecturer at the University of Nantes. And Kevin Mayer, a runner-up at the origin, has since made enormous progress on the explosiveness “. Focusing on the 1,500m, which requires more endurance, would have “Makes you lose on all the other events, because it is not the same muscle fibers which are solicited”, continues the author of a thesis on the construction of versatility in multidisciplinary sports practices. This is why decathletes often dread this last event.

“He transformed his body for the decathlon”

But, for Alain Blondel, Kevin Mayer “Is the only athlete who does not have a weak point in the decathlon”: “He has managed to progress everywhere by optimizing his qualities of speed, relaxation and coordination. Usually, when you work in a physiological sector, you lose quality on the other side, but not him. “

What is the magic recipe? Work sessions on joints and sequences, answers Mathilde Julla-Marcy: “He transformed his body for the decathlon and was very good at transferring his skills between each discipline, for example by finding similarities in the rotation on the throws. He spends a lot of time working his body, without an object. “

Weight gain

Kevin Mayer, 85 kg, gained mass to gain power, without tending towards the profile of the champions of yesteryear. The latter were more or less the same height as today’s decathletes (between 1.85 m and 1.90 m), but with ten kilos more. The most successful, the American Bob Mathias (in gold in 1948 and 1952) and the English Daley Thompson (in 1980 and 1984) indeed weighed 92 kg, with more a body of shot puters than runners.

→ LARGE-FORMAT. Mélina Robert-Michon, everything for a gold record

“They were golgoths, summarizes Alain Blondel, organizer of many international competitions. Now we have thinner jigs, with less mass to move, and high speed and relaxation qualities. “

This is what Kevin Mayer worked on, “By gaining muscle volume, but not at the expense of fiber and muscle intelligence, which makes it possible to have muscles capable of adapting to the different tensions of the weight, the discus, the javelin, the race … “, explains Alain Blondel.

A change of staff one year from the Olympics

In June 2020, he completely changed his training structure, separating from his historic trainer Bertrand Valcin. He surrounded himself with a two-headed team: a physical trainer, Jérôme Simian, who also takes care of Mélina Robert-Michon. And, rare, a performance analyst, Alexandre Bonacorsi, responsible for optimizing preparation by scrutinizing his data.

Less explosive than some of his competitors such as the Canadian Damian Warner, Kevin Mayer is not used to being in the lead on the evening of the first day of events (including the 100m, the long jump and the 400m) . “But I know my second day”, he smiles.


The mythical bar of 9,000 points

In the decathlon, the scale is established by a rating table, which translates into points the performance achieved in each event. This painting has undergone several modifications, the last dating from 1985.

Only three decathletes crossed the 9,000 point mark: Kevin Mayer, with his world record at 9,126 points in 2018. American Ashton Eaton (9,039 points in 2012, 9,045 in 2015) and Czech Roman Sebrle (9,026) in 2001.

It would not be surprising if gold is playing at 9,000 points this year. “, Judge Kevin Mayer in view of the particularly high level of the duel which should oppose him to his main competitor, Damian Warner.


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