Lucas Mazur, a French para-badminton player: “Never give up...”
Lucas Mazur (25), who was crowned Paralympic badminton champion in Tokyo 2021, hopes to retain this title in the Paris Olympics in two years’ time. Enjoying the loyal, unwavering support of Banque Populaire Val de France, he explains how his whole being is focused on this objective.
What impact does sport have on your life?
Sport has been a constant presence in my life since I was a young child. I come from a family of accomplished athletes. My grandmother was a high-level basketball player, playing for the Orleans club in the second division; my mother also played basketball but for the Vierzon club in the first division. As for my father, he was a member of the French national table tennis team... So I have always been immersed in sports. I started with soccer at the age of 6, then I turned to badminton when I was 11. I wanted to try out an individual sport because, at that time, I had also started rugby.
Did you take to badminton right away?
Yes, I was hooked immediately. You can enjoy playing badminton without necessarily being a high-level competitor. It’s really good fun.
What’s so special about this discipline?
Apart from the fact that it’s good fun, it’s also a dueling sport. It’s this psychological struggle against an opponent that, personally, I really enjoy. And like all individual sports, you’re alone, there’s no one to make up for your mistakes... And it’s a discipline that exercises the entire body and gets the heart beating fast... You’re completely drained at the end of a match...
How would you describe your transition to an elite level?
When I started badminton and was learning the ropes, the Federation launched its para-badminton project. I happened to be in the right place at the right time... I rapidly became a member of the French parasport teams. I suffered a stroke at the age of 3 and a half. We never knew what triggered it because strokes are quite rare for children of that age, but it can happen. It made it difficult for me to move around. I limp when I walk and I have spasms in my toes.
So you reached the high level very quickly?
Yes, I rose from being a beginner to a high level very quickly and, at the age of 16, I joined the senior French team and started to play in international competitions...
What is your most important sports memory?
When I was a child, my parents took me to a gala tennis match in Orleans. It was a match between Yannick Noah and Fabrice Santoro, and I was a big fan of Noah, excessively so perhaps! During the match, I was loudly cheering for Noah… to such an extent that, at one point, Noah came over to me and handed me his racket, saying: “go play in my place.” So I found myself hitting a few balls with Santoro in front of all the spectators! It was an incredible experience for the young boy I was at that time!
Which champion do you most admire?
Roger Federer... Because of the way he plays on grass, because of his elegance, for the length of time he’s been at the top of his sport...
What do you think about when you’re unsure of yourself?
What my coach says to me; he’s good at finding the right words. He brings my focus back to my strategy, to my game plans… He knows what to say to shake me out of it...
What is your strong point ?
My height, I am 1m92 tall (almost 6.3 feet in height) and it’s a real advantage in my sport.
Have you managed to study while pursuing your sports career?
Yes, I started a degree in business and administrative management at the University Technology Institute in Bourges. But it took me 35 hours a week on top of my training. I had to put it on hold to prepare the Paralympic Games Paris 2024. I’ll go back to my studies once again after the Paris Games. At present, I’m training at the CREPS sport education center in Bordeaux in the France division for between 5 and 6 hours a day. We’re a group of 8 or 9 and the atmosphere is outstanding...
How do you see yourself in twenty years’ time?
I hope I’ll still be in good physical shape even if high level sport is hard on the body. I hope I’ll have started a family and that I’ll still be involved in sport… as a coach perhaps, why not?
What do the Paralympic Games Paris 2024 mean for your career?
My goal is to keep the title I won in Tokyo last year. But the pressure on me was already crazy in Tokyo, and I found it difficult to manage that pressure, even if I did win at the end.
What was the source of this pressure?
It came from everywhere: from the media, my sponsors, my family, my coach and, maybe even most of all, from myself. It was just too much.
But the pressure will be even greater in Paris...
How do you intend to manage this pressure?
I'm going to start by turning off my phone... I'm going to get organized to insulate myself from the pressure of the Games. And to focus my attention on something completely different to escape this vortex...
How do you get ready for the Paralympic Olympic Games? Is it really an event unlike other competitions?
The Olympics really are a different kind of competition... Everything is exaggerated; everything is multiplied by a factor of 10 or 20... In Tokyo, the pressure made me get off to a very bad start in the competition. Fortunately, I subsequently managed to get my act together and to win a very hard-fought semi-final, and then the final.
How did you manage to win this very tense match?
Thanks to a greater determination to win... And I hung in there... It taught me a lesson for Paris: you must never give up whatever happens.
If you had to choose one value that you cherish in sport?
Respect for others… for the referee, for the rules, for the opponent. You put up a tough fight but once it's over, you stop being opponents...
Do you have another passion?
I'm a great fan of the Toulouse Football Club and I’ve taken out a season ticket... even though I live in Bordeaux... And I play golf as an amateur with a handicap of between 25 and 30... Playing golf allows me to clear my head...
Does golf help you in your badminton practice ?
Yes, golf teaches me to be tolerant with myself.
How important is the support given to you by your partner, Banque Populaire Val de France, in your life as an elite athlete?
It’s extremely important. What really touched me is the loyalty shown me by Banque Populaire Val de France. They came looking for me in high school after the publication of an article about me in the local press. And, since then, they’ve always been there for me. We’ve been working together for six years now. I like it a lot... It’s true that Banque Populaire Val de France is my number one financial support but, above all, the people working for Banque Populaire Val de France are a source of day-to-day support. They were there when I was nobody, and they were still there for my Paralympic title. It’s invaluable... And interpersonal bonds have been forged because I’m always working with the same people, the same team... They form an integral part of my sporting success...
Photo credit: Anaka