Charline Picon – an Olympic windsurfing champion in the RS:X class in 2016, the first French athlete to qualify for the Tokyo Games, and a world silver medallist in February just before the COVID-19 pandemic led to a global lockdown – has been making the most of her time away from sport. Having decided to bring her glittering career to an end after the Games, she is now looking forward to an extra year of competing in the sport she is passionate about.
You were the first French athlete to be officially selected for the Tokyo Games…
Yes, the CNOSF [French National Olympic and Sports Committee] announced that I’d been selected at the start of June 2019. Booking your ticket for the Games a year before the event really puts you at ease and gives you time to prepare, because when you’re fighting to earn your place right up until the last minute, and given there’s only one competitor per country, it can really take it out of you.
How did the 2020 World Championships go?
In Australia, it was the last competition before the lockdown. We just heard at the start that the Chinese athletes had gone into lockdown in their country. But to be honest, we didn’t expect what happened next. We still didn’t really know what it was all about in late February. They were great championships, held in great conditions. I came home at the beginning of March, we had a “normal” two-week recovery period and then, when we were supposed to be getting back on the water, the lockdown came in.
How did you react when you heard the Games had been postponed?
There were several phases. At the start, when the Games were still on, it was a question of keeping up my physical training so that I’d be in peak condition when things got back to normal. Then, the postponement was announced. I was caught in two minds a bit. I felt ready to go and defend my Olympic title this summer, so that wasn’t particularly pleasant. But my partner said: “Listen, everything’s fine; you’ll still get to do what you love in 18 months’ time.” Thinking about it like that made things easier for me. Windsurfing and taking part in regattas involves progressing constantly and doing everything you can to perform well; and that’s something that motivates me every day.