Next Stop Tokyo: Marie Jacquet

Tokyo 2020 Athlete Interviews

2 minute read
Words Tom Ransley
Photography Benedict Tufnell
Published 11.07.21

Marie Jacquet, 27, from Chalon-sur-Saone, France, is set to make her Olympic debut at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. The French U23 bronze-medallist spent three years in America competing for the Bruins while studying at the University of California, Los Angeles. Injury woes almost ended Marie’s career but the Olympic postponement rejuvenated her Olympic dream. At the 2021 Final Olympic Qualification Regatta in Lucerne she placed second and qualified the French women’s quad. She shares her thoughts on Tokyo 2020.

What racing have done this season? This year was absolutely crazy for me. Aside from national selections, I only raced at World Cup I and the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta in Lucerne. After almost ending my rowing career last year, the postponement of the Olympics motivated me to come back, but I had to make up for 10 months without rowing and by the time of European Championships I was still proving myself to the French team, thus I was only selected as the spare.

Why did you nearly retire? I stopped taking any pleasure from my sport. For three years I struggled with injuries, if it wasn’t my rib then it was my back but always something was hurting. At Linz [2019 World Rowing Championships] I failed to qualify the single for Tokyo and by the end of the year I was very miserable. I lost a good friend that year and I started to question my priorities. I’d not taken the time to grieve and in 2020 I knew I wasn’t at my best. To compete at the highest level I needed to be 100% fit in mind and body and I wasn’t so I stopped. I decided if I were to return I would only do so when I could give my best again and do it in a healthy and enjoyable way. I took the time to set my priorities straight and I took care of myself. For the first time my family, my friends, and my health came before rowing. When the olympics got postponed, I knew the chance to qualify was tiny but it was real. I came back to rowing with the right priorities and the right motivation and I got a lot better in the process! 

When do you fly to Japan? We fly from Paris on July 16th and arrive on the 17th as it is a long trip. We’ll go straight to the athlete village.

When’s your first race? Heats for the W4x will take place on the 23rd .

Have you been to Tokyo before? I’ve never been to Tokyo, Japan or even Asia! So it will be a big new experience for me.

How long will you be away from? The last time I was at home was on June 18th, so it will be almost a month and a half by the time I get back. We fly back to France on august 1st.

How do you feel? At this stage I still feel very relaxed. Preparing for the Olympics is amazing and I’m excited to see how fast my teammates and I can row.

How do you expect to feel when you arrive in Tokyo? I’m preparing to feel overwhelmed when I first arrive. But I love the tension when you arrive at the racecourse, so I know it will put me straight back in my bubble.

Did worry the Games might not go ahead? I was unsure if the Games would go ahead even late in the season. And we still have to follow all the sanitary measures on site so the competition can go ahead as planned.

Which races are you most looking forward to? I’m looking forward to the M2x, M2-, LW2x and W2x. These are the events France will be competing! I’m also looking forward to watching the W1x, I really want to know who will win this one.

Have you done any specific training to counter the hot and humid conditions? Yes especially because we get there late so we won’t have time to acclimate on site.

The racing schedule has some early starts; how do you feel about racing early? I’m a morning person and the races for the quad won’t be that early so I have no worry about the time: it will be ideal. 

What’s your race day breakfast? I’ll eat some oatmeal and a banana with my usual morning coffee 😉

What motivates you? At this point the motivation comes from everywhere. The Olympics in itself is a great source of motivation, but the support I get from my family, friends, teammates, and all the people who are following me through this adventure brings me strength.

Have you got your Olympic kit? Does it look good! Yes, and yes! Actually, we are still waiting for the racing gear but I know it will be perfect.