Tokyo Olympics: in search of new challenges, French coaches export their know-how

It all started with a transaction, over eight years ago, in a small town in Maine-et-Loire. That day, Maxime Livio, international eventing rider at the head of a stable, receives an unusual visit. That of the trainer of the second daughter of the King of Thailand. If he is in the Saumur countryside, it is to find a horse for the princess. He does business in the Livio stable.

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“He was taking care of the eventing team, and asked me if I wanted to accompany them to the Games., he says today.It was a time when I seized a lot of opportunities, it was a very good one. “ Maxime Livio says yes. His stable welcomes the team’s mounts, and the three riders make regular trips back and forth between their country and France.

“In Thailand, I am received in an incredible way”

Eight years later, the team competed in Tokyo for its first Olympic Games. Without convincing results, but with hope for the future. “We went up a notch by qualifying”, rejoices the coach.

From a personal point of view, the 30-something is also satisfied: Every time I go to Thailand I am received in an incredible way. Work and investment are recognized. In French culture, when you’re good, it’s considered normal. While with them, it is underlined and noticed.

A “fracture” to which several coaches testify. In pole vault, fencing, horseback riding, track cycling, etc. In these disciplines where France shines or has shone, many technicians choose to leave France to try their luck elsewhere.

Better earn a living

One of the best known is Damien Inocencio, who coached famous pole vaulter Renaud Lavillenie to his Olympic title in London in 2012, before the champion decided to part ways with him. He then turned to China, a country where perch is far from being a specialty. And where the pay is markedly different, he says: “In France, there is no way to make a living as a pole vault coach, it’s a living, it’s survival. “

The Clermontois brings his athletes to France and regularly stays in China… outside of the pandemic. Because of the border closures, he had to train Chinese Huiqin Xu, who qualified for the Olympics, on video. In Tokyo, he will also accompany Switzerland’s Angelica Moser, with whom he started working in 2020. “My contract with China ends after the Olympics, I needed another activity to be safe”, he explains. This is the flip side : “After each Olympics, I can lose my job. We are more in competition. But putting yourself in danger allows you to progress! “

The Blues, “competitors like the others”

A mantra that sticks to Benoît Vêtu, the French coach of Japanese track cycling, previously passed through Russia and China, after leaving the French federation in 2012. “In France, whether we succeed or lose at the Games, it didn’t change anything. Today, I have a pressure that I did not have before. There are big expectations, this tension is a driving force for me ”, describes one who moved to Japan with his family. If he still had a little heart in France the first year, he now considers the Blues as “Competitors like the others”.

→ READ. Olympic Games: why the best in the world are not always there

And the language barrier that forces him to work with an interpreter? “I found an advantage there. We speak a little slower, we take the time to think about what we are going to say “, he smiles. In the land of keirin (a track cycling competition, editor’s note), the performance of his team will be particularly scrutinized.


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