• After the slalom, starting this Monday, the canoe-kayak sprint events at the Tokyo Olympics.

  • Sarah Guyot and Manon Hostens, European champions in 2018, are aiming for a medal in K2 500m.

  • As in rowing, for example, forming a good pair in a kayak is not easy.

    The two French women explain the important aspects to us and how it went for them.  

From our special correspondent in Tokyo,

Seeing them paddle like that, perfectly synchronized in a whirlwind of incessant reels, it doesn't sound rocket science. But anyone who has already made the 24 km descent of the Ardèche, with the famous final straight after the beach of Sauze where you have to fight against the current when you are completely boiled and the person you thought of confidence only puts one paddle out of two in front, has already made this observation: in canoe-kayak, coordination is PRI-MOR-DIALE.

No matter how much you explain all this to your aunt and show her a K2 500m world final as an example, it will unfortunately not change much.

Crew efficiency is a business of the pros.

Before their series this Monday morning at the Tokyo Olympics, we tried to decipher with Sarah Guyot and Manon Hostens what makes a good pair on a boat.

With the lighting of Jean-Pascal Crochet, the boss of the French road racing teams.

  • The formation of the duo

Obviously, if it was enough to put together the two fastest athletes that we have on hand to go for medals, that would be known. “It's super hard, observes Jean-Pascal Crochet. We do not have a mathematical, reliable, and even I would say logical model. We try to create models, and based on that we will do tests. Sometimes it works, sometimes not as well as imagined. "

Over the years, the technician has refined his method. He asks the athletes to paddle - in single-seater - to their maximum over 400 meters, then measures their ability to reach alone the speed peaks recorded as a crew, over 200 meters. “I think that the more we are able to generate speed in a boat, the more we are able to adapt to the speed of the boat during the race,” he explains, asking if we have followed suit. Pretty much, yes, thank you. With these two parameters, one physiological and another more technical, he will then test the couplings that he imagines the most solid.

In the case of Sarah Guyot (30 years old) and Manon Hostens (27 years old), their pair started from a failed experience.

The first, undisputed leader among girls for years, was only interested in the possibility of two-person sailing until 2018, when the level started to rise behind her.

Léa Jamelot, number 2, is tested at his side.


The staff then fell back on number 3.

  • Complementarity

“The very first session was a disaster!” Remembers Manon Hostens, the lucky winner, laughing.

But then it was very fast.

With Sarah, we have a bit of the same motor profile, that is to say we operate in the same way to move the kayak forward.

We all paddle pretty much the same way, but some are more vertical, others more horizontal, in the way they paddle in the water.

It's full of very technical little subtleties like that.


We will skip the details, especially on the use of an inertial unit to try to analyze the shape of the paddle stroke of the athletes.

Still, the following week, the duo finished fifth in a World Cup round.

Then very quickly a podium will come, then a title of European champions.

“We immediately had great sensations, and what is great is that we are very complementary.

Where I am going to start very hard and very quickly, and rather tighten the engine at the end, Manon will hold on, ”notes the more experienced of the two.

“These results solidified our emerging duo.

In almost a month, we really found each other finally, adds the youngest.

It was that there was also a good feeling.


  • Everyone's role in the boat

“The start for me, to go the distance for her, summarizes Sarah Guyot.

These are our distinct qualities.

Then, the goal is to get closer to each other, to each other's strengths, so that we can have the best possible race together.

I feel what she's doing, she feels what I'm doing, and we adjust to the second.


You might think that everything happens in the stroke of the paddle, but no. While cadence is vital, a large part of the success is played out… where the spectator does not have access, that is to say under the hull. “The legs are 80% of the feeling,” resumed the European single-seater champion in 2015. This is where we hold the boat, where we put the energy. "

“The synchro is more the person behind, so Sarah, engages her teammate.

Me, up front, I try to be as regular as possible.

If I'm a little early or late, I immediately feel it.

She's very powerful, so I can easily sense what she's doing.

It helps me settle down.

And then, the goal of the game is as clear as it is complex to implement: to resist and hold together until the finish.

“We know we're fine when we have the impression of being in our car, but with an engine,” smiles Manon Hostens.

There I know that the symbiosis is perfect.


  • Affinities ... or not

Is it better to get along well in a team to be competitive? The eternal question, which will always have its examples and its counter-examples. To stay in K2, the last medalist girls, Marie Delattre-Demory and Anne-Laure Viard (bronze in Beijing), were not really friends. "It's possible to be efficient without getting along, I've seen plenty of it in my career," says Jean-Pascal Crochet. “The important thing is to have a common goal. It is he who dominates, explains Sarah Guyot. Afterwards, we don't have this problem, and so much the better. It can waste energy not to get along. Knowing that you can communicate without being afraid of hurting the other, saying things to each other, it saves time. "

With Manon Hostens, they went on vacation several times together, just to strengthen ties.

“We built this boat, we want to have world medals, Olympic medals, so we look after our relationship, adds the Périgourdine.

By looking at each other, we know if the other is good or not.

Getting along also helps to overcome difficult times, not to get discouraged.


Our dossier on the 2021 Olympics

Their coach takes a positive view of this state of mind.

He could not say if his two proteges are efficient because they are friends or friends because they are efficient, but the main thing is what has been happening between them for three years now.

“I don't know if they will still be this close in 10 years,” he said.

But today, they get along very well and are armed to go looking for big perfs.

On our side, we feel a little better prepared to try our luck again in Sauze's terrible straight.


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