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Uncertainty for the French women’s triathlon team

May 2020 - The French women's triathlon team coached by Stéphanie Deanaz made it through the two months of the lockdown period in the best possible conditions… But without knowing when the competitions would start up again, the coach had to try above all to reassure her athletes at the beginning of a year of economic uncertainty.

In mid-March, the instructions were clear: “Get out of the cities!” Stephanie Deanaz didn’t think twice when she heard about the lockdown. She helped her athletes in particular to make the right decisions: “The aim was to move out of large cities more exposed to health risks and to find suitable training conditions, with one priority: find a swimming corridor for the swim leg of the competition.

Two of the athletes took refuge together in the Var département in southeastern France, in a villa boasting a 25-metre swimming corridor, ideal for them to continue their training. A third confined herself in Switzerland. “Ideal conditions” for the French athletes, she said before rapidly mentioning one drawback: the ban on road cycling. “We had connected home trainers delivered to them. They couldn't compete with each other directly but, thanks to an application, they were able to cycle virtually on a variety of different routes. The application even organized virtual races quite quickly and it was a good opportunity to diversify their training regimen. Each of them in their own little lab tried to overcome the difficulties of the course as best they could. This allowed them to work on their adaptability, which is an important quality in our sport.

Almost two months later, the athletes are looking forward to returning to their base in Montpellier when the swimming pools are allowed to reopen. But, above all, they are still waiting to find out when they’ll be able to compete again officially. After a tough winter of preparation, they feel as if they've re-entered a winter cycle but without the rush of adrenaline provided by competitions. This psychological setback is exacerbated by economic uncertainty: “More than the postponement of the Olympic Games – which gives them a heaven-sent moment of respite and that’s the positive side of the lockdown measures – the athletes are suffering from the negative impacts of the stay-at-home period. They are often supported by companies considerably weakened by the crisis. The athletes tell themselves that corporate partnerships will be the first thing to be axed. They also live off their prize winnings but all the competitions have been cancelled. So things are difficult. As coaches, our role is to reassure them and bring them solutions but the problem at the moment is that we’re trying to reassure them without being able to offer them answers...

The official competitions are beginning to be rescheduled for September but the only certainty for the triathletes is that the complete lifting of the lockdown measures will mark the launch of a new cycle of in-depth preparation… and that the only thing that will lift their spirits is the possibility to start competing again as soon as possible!

Stéphanie Deanaz at a glance

▶︎ Biography

Born May 26, 1975 in St Germain-en-Laye
Member of the French Triathlon Team from 1997 to 2004
World military champion
National coach for the French Triathlon Federation since 2009
Responsible for the Olympic team since London 2012.

▶︎ Coaching achievements

9th in the London Olympics with Jessica Harrison
2015 and 2018 European and World Mixed Relay Champion
U23 World Champion in 2015 with Audrey Merle, 2nd with Léonie Périault
3rd in the 2018 European Championships, and winner of a World Triathlon Series event with Cassandre Beaugrand.

From the same coach