Lucien Delfour

Reflections on Rio

Lucien Delfour
Reflections on Rio

The energy of the Olympic Games is something I was looking forward to experiencing, which I did enjoy, unfortunately only on a few occasions such as the opening and closing ceremonies. I felt like it was lacking the rest of the time, as if we were on a rail, just cruising our way through till the end. Maybe my results had something to do with it. I doubt a medallist would have had the same experience after their event.

In a nut shell I felt let down by the Olympics. It wasn't as big and exciting as I expected. Of course in some ways it was huge, like the village for instance. My training leading to the race was good, had a bit of media attention but nothing crazy. After the race I felt like I was in the middle of an emotional desert. It was The Games, but most events I watched afterwards just fell short, not quite exciting or lacked that Olympic spirit. Most of the time, stadiums were half empty, and yet we struggled to go see any events because we couldn't get enough tickets. That did drive me nuts. I didn’t get to see the Athletics and from what I heard it was great.

Rio is also not an athlete friendly environment. Actually, it’s just not a friendly place. Everything was complicated. Going anywhere, staying safe, coming back etc.

I had a terrible race. I started as ranked number 1 (best world ranking), to finishing 17th. The judges ruled an unfair 50 seconds penalty against me for not going completely through a gate; even though one of the videos showed that I went through that gate. We tried to appeal the decision, but the chief judge decided to ignore the evidence, and support the judge's call rather than admitting that an error was made, willingly punishing the athlete instead of making sure fairness was maintained. It obviously took a while to process, which should not happen at an Olympic Games. 

I'm not sure I had such a thing as an epiphany. I suppose at some stage after the race I thought to myself: "I'm going to show them in Tokyo." That's about the only thing positive that came out of the games.

I’m not sure I grew as a person in Rio. Even if the memories were both good and really hard, being part of the Australian team and representing Australia at the highest level is the dearest thing to me. What happened at the race, the injustice, the result, it hurt me, my ego and my career really, really hard. I spent the next few days being so angry and bitter. It spoilt a big chunk of my time at the games. I did my best to remain a good sport, as no one likes a sore loser, and that took a lot of effort considering the circumstances. I dealt with the pain eventually, and managed to put a couple of things in perspective, something I don't think I would have been able to do a few years ago. 

Being able to say "I'm an Olympian" is great, however we are still human. Just because I experienced something most people on earth never will, doesn't mean I'm a better person.

My most memorable moment was the Opening Ceremony. My race was two days later but I did not want to miss it for the world. Looking back, I wish I had gone back to the village a little bit earlier. I enjoyed the training before the competition, it was just a great feeling. It was also good to have a bit of media attention around our small sport, as we don't get it very often.

Anna Meares was the most inspirational and my favourite athlete. I think she made us all cry a bit with her very emotional speech during our Aspire session in Rio. We are all proud of her, she truly was the best athlete in our team, greatest track cyclist ever, and simply one of the greatest athletes across the globe.

I'm having a much needed break right now. I'm going back to France for a few weeks to see my family and my friends. In the next few weeks I’ll pick up a new model of kayak, so I can get a fresh start. I've paddled for 2 years with the same design and I really felt like I had to change! Gold in Tokyo is my goal, but I’ll focus on the world championships next year in Pau, France. It's good not to think about the games anymore, because it truly is draining. Right now I want to become the next world champion.

Lucien Delfour is an French-Australian slalom canoeist who has competed for France since 2006. Since 2010 he has represented Australia, recently at the Rio Olympics.