Rising Olympics Star Driven by Candlepower

Gaël Prévost, one of France’s most promising juniors and a 2012 Olympic Archery hopeful, is an unusual 18-year-old prodigy proudly raised in an isolated Clermontois hamlet lighted only by candle power. 

Gaël Prévost, France’s 18-year-old Olympic Archery hope

The youngest member of France’s Archery Team selected for the London 2012 Olympics – which starts July 27 — says, with a reserved nonchalance but no sound of regret in his rich baritone voice: “I don’t have a mobile phone, I’ve never had one and I don’t have a computer so of course no Internet access either. But they are not things I miss. Rather it lets me live and socialise better with the people around me.”  Also, he tells a Nouvel Observateur reporter, the family has no television, “because our home is not connected to the power grid — electricity bothers my father, he prefers a simple life”.

Gaël grew up in a hamlet comprised of just three farm houses some 60km from Clermont-Ferrand in the Auvergne, one of the coldest and most remote regions of France and famous, among other things, for its cheese. If his coach — who says Gaël is gifted, “very very talented” — has his way, the region will soon also be famous for the first French Olympic archery medal since Sébastien Flute.(Flute, Gaël reminds the reporter, was Olympic archery champion in Barcelona in 1992 “before I was even born”).

The rising archery star was schooled at home and studied by candlelight he admits without rancour: “Candles make for a very relaxing atmosphere. I love it. It recharges my batteries. My father was a parachute expert working in skydiving. One day he just got sick of lugging the family around from town to town on his different jobs, and made a complete life change. So I lived for 13 years in this tiny hamlet, where we were the only residents and a little cut off.  My father first put up an archery target in the field when I was 6. I started shooting arrows and loved it. My schooling was done by correspondence but I went into town for archery and swimming.”

It helps of course that he has steady nerves and emotional control. Strong shoulders, superior vision and a cool demeanour are all must-haves for archery and the Riom club’s young  archer appears to have them all in abundance.

Interviewed on the French Olympics website he says: “I graduated from high school at 16, and started studying psychology, but without success. Today, I devote myself 100% to archery, it suits me very well. The preparation is intense, sometimes we do three workouts a day, including shooting, strength training and aerobic work. The pace is not easy, but it has made me grow up a lot. Physically, I am much stronger, technically I have gained a lot and I manage my emotions better in competitions, thanks to work we do over the year with specialists.”

Asked what he as an 18-year-old felt about participating in the Olympics, he said: “I don’t let it go to my head, I just live from day to day, forcing myself to do the best I can in each competition. If I do my job well, I will go to the Games. It’s that simple. For me, its a sporting goal, but I don’t dream. I think I never dreamed of the Olympics, maybe because I have no pictures of the Games in my head.”

Here he is aged 17 competing in Istanbul against Dmytro Hrachov of Ukraine for a bronze medal in the Final Stage of the 2011 Archery World Cup – Men Individual Recurve Bronze Match:

The Auvergne experience might have left him forever satiated with bucolic life . But to the contrary the reporter notes, he speaks about it “with an almost nostalgic tenderness”.

“I left home to go to athletic training, when I was accepted at the Bordeaux sports academy for promising athletes. Then I was moved to Insep where I have been for the past two years. But I love my parents’ home, its where I go to rest and relax, to get back to basics.”

Today Gaël Prévost, ensconced for intensive training at Paris/Bois de Vincennes’ INSEP Institut National du Sport, de l’Expertise et de la Performance,  a high intensity training center for French sporting elites, is a long way from childhood tranquility and his first archery club in the Auvergne town of Riom (63200). His home club is: http://www.archersriomois.com/competiteurs/

Nevertheless the simplicity of his upbringing stays with him. In Shanghai, where the French archery team was on a tour in early April during the first round of the World Archery Cup, Gaël was teamed with Romain Girouille. Between matches, the two archers each killed time in their own way he explained: “Romain switched on his Apple IPad and surfed the Internet. Me, I read Alexandre Dumas’ The Black Tulip – a very enjoyable book.”

Provost hits the bulls eye — keeps another eye out for the Olympics

Here is a record of his recent competition results. Readers might also care to listen here to a recent three part radio broadcast on France’s RTL station in which archery coach Ghani Yalouz and Gaël Prévost participate:

Story: Ken Pottinger



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3 Responses to Rising Olympics Star Driven by Candlepower

  1. Pingback: Oh la Vache – Cows get QR branded « French News Online Newsroom

  2. S T Vaughan June 1, 2012 at 8:40 am

    £2 for a cup of tea, £1.20 for a bottle of water, the whole Olympic experience is like having red hot needles poked in your eyes and pretending you are enjoying it. From the very first cheers London’s 2012 Olympics has been a painful journey of junketing, rip off, and debt, that will leave every UK household with at least a £2000 bill. We’ve seen a ticket fiasco, a security nightmare, war ships in the Thames, ground to air missiles on blocks of flats, a tsunami of prostitutes from Eastern Europe, and 25,000 from the Olympic family promised everything from five star hotels to free medical care and dental treatment. Half of London has been closed down and doom is pending on the roads while the only real benefactors from this Olympic “Disney land” is the Olympic family with all their perks gifts, and special deals. Best advice is to stay at home turn on the telly, and watch the games with a £1 pound can of beer and a bag of BOGOF crisps from you local supermarket. How the French must be sighing with relief that London “won” the Olympic games. S T Vaughan Birmingham B14 4EA

  3. D J M Gibbons June 26, 2012 at 9:05 am

    Sir, I do profusely agree with your comments, and must admit, even in rural Gloucestershire we are feeling the Olympic effects – I cannot express my relief at being more than 100 miles away from the disaster’s epicentre.
    D J M Gibbons
    GL6 7BQ

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