JC Valladont readier than ever as home Olympics in Paris approaches
ATHLETE SPOTLIGHT is presented by WIAWIS.
Jean-Charles Valladont has experienced the highs and lows of archery – but his love for the sport has never waned.
The Frenchman won Olympic silver in Rio in 2016 but then saw his form dip thereafter.
Now, with a home Games in Paris on the horizon, the 34-year-old has started to show glimpses of the performances that made him such a force around that success in Brazil, most notably by picking up a silver medal at the opening stage of the 2023 Hyundai Archery World Cup in Antalya.
The turnaround has come in large part thanks to the arrival of a former Korean head coach in Oh Seon Tek.
He took over the French set-up in 2022 and despite Valladont’s vast experience, the Frenchman was happy to overhaul his training methods in a bid to rediscover his best form.
“Mr Oh came in nearly two years ago and we have torn it all down to rebuild,” he said.
“I’ve spent 20 years working in one way, with certain techniques and this has meant a lot of change and a new philosophy. I had to accept that and I’m lucky in that it may have been easier for me than for some others.”
Should he eventually make the team, Paris will be Valladont’s fourth Olympics. And his last.
“I was happy to accept the project with Mr Oh and it has worked well. I’ve had confidence in what we are doing, my results have been improving,” he said.
Despite a rollercoaster of results since finishing second in Rio, Jean-Charles never gave up.
“I still enjoyed it, I always said that if I started not to enjoy it, then I would stop. But that was not the case, it was just that my level was dropping. I could see that I was on the cliff face,” he explained.
"When this opportunity came up, I saw that as the only option for me. When you see what the coach has achieved as a head coach and what he can offer the athletes, I jumped at the chance.”
Twelve archers have been named to France’s extended squad in preparation for the Games – and Valladont is one of them.
The opportunity to complete a storied career on home turf is, quite literally, once-in-a-lifetime. But Valladont knows that focusing on the magnitude of the event is precisely the mistake he has made in the past.
“I qualified for the Games in Beijing and that was my first Olympic experience,” said Valladont, who picked up the sport as an eight-year-old in Torpes in the east of France.
“I got to the Games and felt I’d already won. That was the trap. I was on the bus next to [Novak] Djokovic.”
He learned from that experience.
“In 2016, I saw it as an archery competition. Of course, it was also the Olympics, but I told myself it was an archery competition and I wanted to do as well as I could. From the moment I had a medal around my neck, that is when I was in dreamland,” he recalled.
“I saw my parents at the venue. I’d seen the emotion that my dad felt for a different sport watching it on TV, so to think that I’d managed to do it for my friends and family and my country, in archery, that is what you work for.”
“That is why I love the sport and it’s the biggest pay-off for this sport that I do, to be able to convey those emotions to so many people.”
So what of Paris? How will he manage the emotions if he makes it to his home Games to compete at the stunning venue in Les Invalides?
“Today, there are two facets to it,” he explained. “As a French sportsman and a leader, I have to do the PR and say that it will be amazing, it’s going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience to have the Games at home. It’s incredible as a fan, and as an athlete, even more."
The veteran sportsman is renowned for his ability to deliver (rather long) media appearances.
“But my aim is to be there and to win a medal. And if that is my objective, I know that I can’t allow myself to marvel at it like I did with the Games in Beijing,” he continued.
“It’s in a corner of my head, of course, but having spoken to a few sportspeople who might win a medal, of course, we will be out there talking and doing comms, because that is how we live in the smaller sports but at a certain point, we also need to focus on the matter in hand.”
“Is it to be blown away by the Games at home, or is it focusing on succeeding in our Olympic quest? There will be a moment to enjoy it all, but that will be afterwards,” he said.
“The day that I am up there needing to hit a 10, everything else is forgotten. If I manage to hit the 10 I need and get on the podium, that is when I’ll take off the blinkers and appreciate what we or I have achieved.”