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Aurélie Muller in reconquest | French Swimming Federation

In the space of two races, Aurélie Muller, 31, recalled fond memories of the tricolor open water. Victorious in the 5 km indoor in Sarcelles, at the end of January, then in the 10 km of the Coupe de France disputed in Martinique, in mid-February, the Mosellane, triple world champion (10 km in Kazan in 2015 and 10 km and mixed relay in Budapest in 2017, editor’s note), has already qualified for the Budapest Worlds (June 18-July 3, 2022), where she hopes to reconnect with the thread of her history after a two-year break in Nice. Before that, Aurélie Muller will return to the international scene this Thursday (March 24) in Eilat (Israel), where a 10 km of the LEN Cup will be contested.

Since September 2021, you have been training again in Sarreguemines under the leadership of Gilles Cattani. How do you live this return to the sources?

Very well (smile)… Everything was decided a year ago. Things weren’t going very well with Fabrice (Pellerin) in Nice (whom she had joined in September 2019 after missing her qualification for the 10 km of the Tokyo Games during the Open Water Worlds in Yeosu, editor’s note). In April 2021, I spent a month in Font-Romeu with Magali (Mérino) before returning home to Sarreguemines. There, I trained for two weeks with Gilles (Cattani). We knew each other, but we had never worked together. We took the time to chat and finally I decided to prepare for the French championships in Chartres (June 15-20, 2021) with him and Magali. On a more personal note, I also wanted to return home, to my club, to my family. Opportunity came so I took it (smile)

(KMSP/Stephane Kempinaire)

How is this alternation between Magali Mérino and Gilles Cattani organized?

It obviously depends on the sports calendar. It’s not a real 50/50, but I go from one to the other according to the objectives and that suits me very well. With Gilles, I do fewer kilometers because in Sarreguemines, we train in a 25-meter pool. With Magali, I work on land. There, for once, we make limits (laughs)

What does this alternation bring you?

I don’t like routine and then, in all honesty, I think I wanted to be reassured because it hadn’t been going too well for two years. I needed to be surrounded by people I could trust. This alternation also allows me to vary training and confrontations. It’s enriching. And then, Gilles and Magali communicate very well. My preparation is in line with my desires and my objectives.

Does it change anything to be coached by a woman or by a man?

Not really ! I’ve always trained with men, but working with Magali doesn’t change anything. What interests me, like all top athletes, is the skill of the technician, his know-how. The rest is irrelevant.

(KMSP/Stephane Kempinaire)

Now let’s get to the heart of the matter: what will your future be like? Are you going to prioritize open water or the pool?

My goal is to get back to my best level in open water. I love this discipline. It is over long distances that I manage to fully express myself. I do not regret my visit to Fabrice (Pellerin), but it was a parenthesis.

Between your victory in the 5 km indoor Sarcelles at the end of January, and your success in the 10 km of the Coupe de France organized in mid-February in Martinique, we have the feeling that you are already back at the forefront.

To tell you the truth, my 2021-2022 season didn’t start very well. I contracted the Covid at the beginning of December and this deprived me of a participation in the 10 km of Abu Dhabi (December 16, 2021). For a few days, I wondered how the sequel was going to turn out. I managed to remobilize myself during the month of January by doing a lot of land work with Magali (Mérino). My performance at Sarcelles really surprised me. I did not expect to find this level of performance so quickly. But the most important thing was Martinique because the qualification for the world championships in Budapest was at stake. Now that I have punched my ticket, I can’t wait to confront myself at the international level.

(KMSP/Stephane Kempinaire)

Budapest, it must necessarily bring back good memories. In 2017, you won three medals there, including two titles in the 10 km and with the mixed relay.

Obviously, I think about it a little (smile)… And then, I work every day to relive this kind of experience. But let’s not go too fast. I don’t have to skip the steps. For the moment, my focus is on the LEN Cup in Eilat (Israel, March 24).

We feel that you are both impatient and cautious. Have you missed open water since 2019?

Yes, of course, because I love my discipline. But, in fact, I think what I missed the most was the strategy…

That’s to say ?

In the pool, it’s not the same. We observe each other less. Let’s say we are applying or trying to implement a running pattern. In open water, you have to constantly adapt, react and anticipate your opponents’ attacks. This thing, I really can’t wait to find it.

The French in the mixed relay (Logan Fontaine, Océane Cassignol, Aurélie Muller and Marc-Antoine Olivier) celebrate their victory at the 2017 World Championships in Budapest (KMSP/Stéphane Kempinaire).

How do you manage the sequence of training and competitions at 30 years old?

Of course my body regularly reminds me of my age (smile)… What I like about Gilles (Cattani) is precisely that he listens to what I tell him. We talk a lot about my sensations and my feelings. Today, it’s essential for me because I recover less quickly and I can’t continue like I did when I trained with Philippe Lucas.

At 31, is it also time to gain perspective and step back from your career as a whole?

Yes, because I am fully aware that I am closer to the end than the beginning. I know that it will soon stop and that I also have to take advantage of what is happening to me at the moment. Everything I have experienced, I now make sure to transform it into an experience. I try to use it to meet the last challenges of my career. It’s not always easy to take a step back, but I manage it better and better because I’ve grown up, because today I’m a… a woman, yes, I can say that!

In 2017, in Budapest, Aurélie Muller won two world titles in the 10 km and with the mixed relay (KMSP/Stéphane Kempinaire).

What about your Olympic disappointments despite everything? What place do they occupy in your gallery of memories? Can you use it or is it still painful?

I sincerely hope that the Paris Games will be a liberation. Today, this is clearly what motivates me, what makes me want to train and find my best level in open water. I cannot imagine ending my career without an Olympic medal, moreover in front of my family, my friends and all my partners. That would be absolutely fabulous! But hey, at the top level, you never know. Anyway, if it doesn’t go as planned, I could at least write a book because with all these twists, it’s still a hell of a story. (laughs)

A story people remember…

It’s true that even today people talk to me about the Rio Games. This episode will always be part of my journey, but I needed to go over it at some point to keep moving forward. On the other hand, when someone talks to me about the Santa Fe, it touches me almost more. For a long time, I took pleasure in seeing Interior Sport (Canal + program devoted to French champions, editor’s note) retracing my 57 km in the Coronda river, but this is no longer the case.

Why ?

Before, it gave me strength. Besides, I still don’t know how I was able to finish this race. Today, I’m still proud of what I achieved in Argentina, but that’s something that’s in the past.

(KMSP/Stephane Kempinaire)

Do you often think about the Paris Games?

I try not to think about it every day, but it’s not easy (smile)… It’s still a long way off, but it will happen very soon. What matters to me, for the moment, is to do everything possible to be ready in 2024. For the time being, I will try to return to my best level, take advantage of the Budapest Worlds to calibrate myself against international competition, then we will plan for next season. The risk, as I have already said, would be to want to go too fast.

We feel you are incredibly lucid. This perspective that you have today, would you be ready to benefit the swimmers of the France team? To play, for example, a leadership role?

Today, I feel, in fact, legitimate to speak within the national collective. We were very strong, especially in 2017 in Budapest, so obviously it saddens me to see that we are a little less so. If I can bring my experience, it would be with great pleasure (smile)

Collected by Adrien Cadot

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