Elodie Clouvel: Olympic star hopes her 17-year journey will end in gold

This interview is part of the exclusive Yahoo series 'How To Raise An Olympian', in which we speak to Olympic stars and their parents to get a unique insight into what it takes to raise an elite athlete. Watch the full interview above - and for more see the links at the bottom of the page.

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Silver medallist at the 2016 Olympic Games; gold medallist and three-time silver medallist at the World Championships; and silver medallist at the European Championships - this is French modern pentathlete Élodie Clouvel’s impressive international record.

Her sport may not be the best known, but it is certainly one of the most diverse. For the uninitiated, it is a combination of five events, which are as varied as they are complementary: fencing, swimming, show jumping, running and shooting.

At 32, Clouvel will tackle her third Olympic competition in Tokyo. And she is one of the favourites to win. Her goal is clear. “Not just for the medal, but for the title, for the 17-year journey believing in this”, she explained in an emotional interview.

How has she got here?

Clouvel is the daughter of Pascal and Annick Clouvel, two high-level athletes specialising in long and middle-distance running. In other words, she was immersed in the world of sport from a very young age.

2016 Rio Olympics - Modern Pentathlon - Ranking Round - Women's Fencing Ranking Round - Youth Arena  - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 18/08/2016. Elodie Clouvel (FRA) of France. REUTERS/Jeremy Lee FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS.
Elodie Clouvel competes in the fencing ranking rounds at Rio 2016. (Photo by: Reuters/Jeremy Lee) (Reuters Photographer / reuters)

“She was an energetic little girl who liked to try her hand at everything. We wanted to let her try as many things as possible. So, all those skills she discovered at a young age allowed her to become the modern pentathlon champion she is today”, her father reminisces in an interview with Yahoo.

Though she started out as a swimmer, the turning point came in 2004. And it was no accident.

“The first time I said to myself, ‘I'm going to be in the Olympics’, was when [swimmer] Laure Manaudou won Olympic gold in Athens in 2004. I said to myself, ‘I want to make it one day, I want to be a champion too’”.

But Clouvel didn’t make the cut in the 2008 Olympic swimming qualifications. At the time, she was trained by Philippe Lucas, whom she still has fond memories of despite the 11-mile swim he inflicted on her. “It really shaped me mentally, I have great memories of it”, she said in an interview with La Dépêche in 2016.

One objective

She bounced back from the setback. The French Modern Pentathlon Federation took note of Clouvel's performance and approached the athlete, who stands at six feet tall.

She had to learn three new disciplines that she had never practised before: fencing, shooting and show jumping. She took to them quickly and qualified for the modern pentathlon team at the 2012 London Olympics, after just three years in the sport.

Unfortunately, the London Olympics just weren’t her moment. “I experienced them a little bit like a spectator. I didn't really manage to assert myself in those Olympic Games”. She finished 31st. For her, there was no question of leaving things at that point. With no shortage of courage and hard work, the rewards would follow.

And how they did. In 2016, at the Rio Olympics, she won the silver medal, finishing 16 points behind the Australian Chloe Esposito. This was France’s first ever Olympic medal in the modern pentathlon individual event.

2016 Rio Olympics - Modern Pentathlon - Victory Ceremony - Women's Victory Ceremony - Deodoro Stadium - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 19/08/2016. Silver medalist Elodie Clouvel (FRA) of France reacts. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido  FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS.
Elodie Clouvel takes stock of her brilliant Rio Olympic silver. (Photo by: Reuters/Edgard Garrido) (Edgard Garrido / reuters)

“I was a different Élodie then, four years older and more mature. I could express myself better in the competition, with the level I had at the time. I gave it my all and I came second”, she says.

But Clouvel is not done yet and she will go to the Tokyo Olympics with one single objective.

“It would be a huge achievement in my career. I've been training for 17 years just for this, twice a day, to be the Olympic champion. I believe in it and I tell myself that it’s possible”, she concludes. We will know the answer on 6 August.

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