We left Charlotte Bonnet on Friday August 12, our eyes red with emotion. The French then struggled to find the words in the mixed zone to describe her joy and relief after her silver medal in the 100 meter freestyle at the European Swimming Championships in Rome. She had been waiting for an individual charm for four years.
During these difficult years, she alternated between physical problems, including a shoulder injury, and psychological ones. At only 25 years old, she asked herself the question of whether or not to stop her career. Covid-19 and lockdowns haven’t helped.
After eleven years under the orders of Fabrice Pellerin, Charlotte Bonnet left Nice to join Philippe Lucas in Martigues (Bouches-du-Rhône) last September, in the wake of the failed Tokyo Games. She restarted the machine there. The Budapest Worlds confirmed the beginnings of his return, with a sixth place in the 200 meter freestyle. Rome was the place of its rebirth. With four medals, including one gold in the mixed 4×100 meter relay, the Frenchwoman confides in Franceinfo: sport.
Franceinfo: sport: How did you feel when you won your silver medal in the 100m freestyle?
Charlotte Bonnet: When I hit the wall, I’m a little disappointed not to win, but I quickly put things into perspective. I quickly tell myself that I’ve been waiting for this for 4 years, that I’m struggling, that I haven’t had an individual medal. Emotion quickly took over. It’s a silver medal, I’m vice-champion of Europe, it’s incredible!
After complicated years, you are back at the highest level…
Managing to come back after these galleys and to win again, these are the most beautiful moments that we can live. I went through so many things… There are people who didn’t believe in me, who abandoned me. There is a feeling of revenge and above all of pride. It is the reward for the efforts made. I have the feeling of being reborn like a phoenix.
Behind this success, there is a man: Philippe Lucas. What did it bring you?
Many things. It was a construction site when I arrived with him in September. I resumed after two and a half months off. I thought I would quit completely. There were a lot of things to rework. I am happier today, more fulfilled. I found pleasure. I’m not 100% like before because there are failures and demons that can resurface, but there are a lot of changes and I retain the positive.
We saw you talking a lot with him before the competition. What were his words?
He did not have a particular speech. We talk a lot every day. Both him and me, we get to know each other. There is a strong bond between us. I’m getting to an age (27) where I need that.
You also shone in the 4x100m mixed freestyle with a gold medal. Your first since Glasgow in 2018…
This medal, it rewards a lot of work, even if it is not worth an individual medal. I am able to let go, to shout, to cry when it is shared with a relay. It was amazing.
Did you speak to Marie Wattel before the relay, when she had just missed the gold in the 100 butterfly?
I told him to switch directly to the relay. It’s not easy but we really had our cards to play. I said to him: “I trust you to change your mood and leave this disappointment behind you”. She knew how to do it perfectly. We didn’t exchange much, but I trusted him to hide this frustration and give everything for the relay. We had a title to look for.
“Having experienced hardships makes you realize even more how precious these moments are. That’s what I told Marie. It can be pointless to be last or to be at the foot of the podium. That’s what made me savor these medals even more.”Charlotte Bonnet, vice-champion of Europe in the 100m freestyle
at franceinfo: sport
The great satisfaction of these European championships is the confirmation of the return to the forefront of the French sprint team. What is your assessment?
Frankly, we are a superb team. We created something strong in Budapest. We tried to perpetuate that in Vichy before the Europes. With Mary [Wattel], we were captains for the first time during these championships. We tried with our experience to create a real team. It’s not easy because there are 30 swimmers but we all eat together, we talk to each other, it’s been a long time since we had experienced that in the France team. This is the secret of success. When there is a good osmosis, a good atmosphere, it makes you want to perform.
What are the goals now?
The Games in Paris in 2024 are the main objective, but there are other deadlines before that. I don’t want to rush them. Each event, I want to manage it as well as possible to arrive at the Olympic Games in top form.