Samir Aït Saïd gave this interview to Le Figaro, talking about returning to competition in 2017 and training for the Tokyo Olympics.
The translation by K. Chevallier.
Q: Looking back, Samir, was your 4th place in the rings final at World Championships last October a disappointment or a satisfaction?
A: It’s a little disappointing because I don’t train to place 4th. However, if you look back at how far I’ve come, you can tell it’s a decent result. But I’m still a competitor and when I get around, it’s neither just to qualify for an event final nor just to miss out on a medal. Especially by only eight-thousandths of a point. This doesn’t even exist! But that’s how it is, judges decided that the Chinese gymnast who finished before me was better than I and they’re definitely right. I don’t want to argue and say “I was robbed”. No, I don’t find this interesting. He was better, and I wasn’t so good. This time, at least. [smiles]
Q: On the other hand, you were reassured about your level after executing a nearly perfect routine, weren’t you?
A: Yes, I was. I have nothing to feel guilty about my performance. That wasn’t enough to be on the podium, but I’m satisfied with the work I’ve done. It hasn’t been rewarded as my coach and I would have wished, but it’s no big deal. That was a wake-up call and I went back to the gym to train even harder.
Q: What has remained from Rio and this horrible injury?
A: What has remained from Rio is this: a nail in the shin! [laughs] This is what I’ve got left. More seriously, there remains a good memory because these were my first Olympic Games. After this injury, I received lots of support and love from people. I feel I have support, even nowadays, and that makes me want to go get that gold medal in Tokyo in 2020. There are a lot of Brazilians who keep messaging me too. So apart from this injury that ruined my dream, I only have good memories of Rio.
Q: Have you erased this injury from your mind?
A: Not at all. It’s impossible to erase it. I’m just trying not to think about it. It’s still at the back of my mind. I still have all the images, all the feels from this moment. I can describe the scene from start to finish.
Q: You keep talking about Tokyo and the 2020 Olympic Games. How does this 4th place at the 2017 World Championships fit in this perspective?
A: Like a step. Even if I were the world champion, it wouldn’t be a victory. My victory, it will be at the Olympic Games. Since I’ve arrived at the Etoiles du Sport, I keep talking about Tokyo 2020 and Paris 2024. I’m talking with other athletes about the way they train, their goals, how to achieve them…
Q: Isn’t it too extreme to claim that in your eyes, a world title is not a victory?
A: No, it’s not. It would be a great satisfaction of course, but my victory can only be an Olympic one. I want to be an Olympic champion. I won’t bite the hand that feeds me if I won silver or bronze, but I go after the gold. I’m not afraid to dream big. I want to reach for the stars and give myself the means to succeed. I’m not saying that I’ll succeed, but I’ll work harder than anyone else. I want to hear the Marseillaise on the podium in Tokyo.
Q: With what happened in Rio, isn’t it too risky to train too hard? Your leg is probably weakened.
A: No, not at all. It’s quite the reverse. The nail is really resistant. [smiles] I’m not worried about this. The surgeons did a great job. Mine is to train smart and get ready for the deadlines cleverly. You don’t have to overdo it. But you don’t have to listen to yourself too much either. It hurts a little here, it hurts a little there, I’ll do it tomorrow… No. Tomorrow will be too late. I assume that today, when I’m not training, someone else is training hard to be even stronger. I need to train really hard if I want the gold medal because it won’t appear with a snap of the fingers.
Q: Will you prepare for Tokyo differently than for Rio?
A: [He is hesitating] Probably. I trust my coach to best prepare myself. He is the boss, I’m only executing. But I think he’ll include some new skills.
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