For Antoine Brizard and the Olympic champions, dreams of gold and a return to hard work

It’s hard for athletes to go back after the Olympic title. Did you “dig” for the Tokyo gold medal?

Of course it is very special. We didn’t think, no one thought. For a few weeks, we told ourselves, in fact, it seemed like an ultimate goal. But we are all in a way: victory calls victory. We’ve seen the idea that the title brings to volleyball in general. Then we were greeted at the Trocadéro, on our way back from Japan, by the crowds. We quickly recovered, moved on to focus on Paris 2024. If we were to do the same thing again, in France, it would be amazing.

How many vacations have you had since then?

One week between the Olympics and preparation for the Euros, but with applications, four days to leave with my wife. Four days after the Euro, but I moved to Italy to prepare (Editor’s note: he left the Zénith Saint-Petersburg for Piacenza). Then I had nothing in the season, and there was a week between the end of the season and the VNL preparation class.

You are opposed to increasing the calendar. Do you think that will change?

The International federation (FIVB) wants to raise money. VNL is the only competition that allows us to save time, which is what brings in a lot… In a way, the process is extended. We will continue to say a lot, but we have no hope. We are on the side, we need consequences, afraid of pain, hard to take care of.

“The moment you think you’ve come to take the biggest shots. I’m rarely satisfied. Being a perfectionist has always helped me.”

Are the Olympics changing the lifestyle of the athlete?

Yes usually. Not only do teams want smart players, they want players who have won tough games, so they get paid. But it is difficult now for the war in Ukraine. Of course, it’s a disaster for those who have suffered from conflict. For us, the Russian market is no longer stable, gifts are less, prices have fallen. It is played in 3 to 4 small levels but on the scale of volleyball a lot.

The gold medal, your selection of the best player in the world in 2021, are they changing your position?

I’m always looking for progress, everywhere. You think you’ve arrived to take the biggest shots. I am rarely satisfied. Being a perfectionist has always helped me. In the French team, there will always be a search, I think, with Benjamin Toniutti. I’ve finished the games but it doesn’t guarantee anything for the future. We will always work with “Totti”. Play the best!

From left to right: Barthelemy Chinenyeze, Jean Patry, Antoine Brizard and Earvin Ngapeth during the Olympic 3-2 win over the Russians.

AFP

How big is the VNL this season?

We were lucky to have a very large team, with youngsters, the A’s. They had the French game field, this small rebellion that we had since 2012, with new attacks. It’s important, because we go to all the tournaments to win them, even though the VNL is the main thing to prepare for the World Championship. In 2021, Rimini’s final level isn’t that important, other than the games, it didn’t stop us from winning the bronze medal. We had to drive high in style but with the desire to win, looking with positions in two or three, we continued to compete.

Is Paris 2024 in your head?

We talked a lot about it. Two years before Tokyo, in 2018, we’re not talking about the games but about that year’s World Championship. There, I think every day, we see everything we do, we work for that. The World Championship is also strong, which is one of our goals.

Andrea Giani
Andrea Giani

FFVB

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