While Sylvain Court didn’t repeat his win at last year’s IAU Trail World Championships, he found himself up front all day and battled his way to third place. In the following interview, Sylvain talks about how Team France prepared for the competition, his expectations for his performance this year, working through a late-race ankle injury, and if he’s happy with his finish.
For more on how the world championships went down, read our 2016 IAU Trail World Championships results article.
[Editor’s Note: Thank you to Fred Bousseau of Trails Endurance for his translation assistance.]
[Click here if you can’t see the video above.]
Sylvain Court Post-2016 IAU Trail World Championships Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and I’m here in Bom Jesus, Portugal. We’re above Braga. It’s the day after the 2016 IAU Trail World Championships. I’m with Sylvain Court who finished third place yesterday. Good morning.
Sylvain Court: Yes, good morning, Meghan.
iRunFar: How are you doing? How are you feeling the day after the world championships?
Court: I have not very good sensations because during the race, I turned my left ankle at 55k. It was very difficult. Now the ankle is injured this morning.
iRunFar: There are two races to talk about. There’s your individual race and Team France’s race, but I want to as you about yours first. You went into this race as the defending champion. What was your mind like on the starting line yesterday?
Court: I was very motivated by the title. I was the winner in 2015. I wanted to fight to conserve the title. I wanted to make a good race.
iRunFar: As a defending champion, was there extra mental pressure, or for you was this like any other race yesterday?
Court: It was a challenge for me because nobody arrived to get two times the world-champion title. I wanted to try to get this challenge and to fight with the other guys for this objective.
iRunFar: Yesterday’s race was unique because it was almost three hours of the eight-and-a-half hour race in the dark, one third of the race. How did the night time play out for the front of the men’s competition?
Court: Yes, I planned three hours from the start to the first aid station, but we arrived in 2:50. It was a very fast start to the race but not so fast because there was a group of runners and it was a collective race for all. It was in the rhythm of the race, good and fast but not too fast.
iRunFar: For me, I thought that was interesting that even at 30k there was a big group of men together. Lately in competitive men’s racing, we’ve seen a couple guys way off the front.
Court: I was after the aid station of Gerês in a group with a lot of runners. But at this time, Luis Alberto [Hernando] decided to go faster. In the first climbing, it was difficult climbing. Just me and Nicolas [Martin] would follow Luis Alberto. It was the first time in the race where we take some time before the other guys. This was the break of the future of the race.
iRunFar: On the climb to the race’s high point, it was just the three of you together—you, Nico, and Luis Alberto. All the men back, there was a large break to the rest of the men. It became very clear quickly after that that the three of you were going to be the podium, at least that’s what it seemed like from the outside looking in. Did it feel that way also, or were you also thinking about the men behind you?
Court: No, we never mind that we could win or get a medal because on this kind of race the level is very high and we don’t know between five and six minutes, the guys behind us could come in front. It was difficult, but I had some information from the staff and from my friend, Francois, thinking about the lapse in front to Luis Alberto and in back with the guys behind.
iRunFar: At the finish line, you and Nico were so close, a half a minute apart. You are kind of rivals in that sometimes the one beats the other and then the other beats the other one. What was it like racing Nico all the way to the finish and finishing so close yesterday?
Court: I was speaking with Nico all the race. In the first part of the race, Nico was very, very strong. I was trying to follow the two very strong guys. They always speak during the race for the motivation of each other for the title of the team. The first thing was for myself, but it was for the team, too. It’s very important for the French people for the gold medal for the team. It was harder and harder during the race. After 70k, we were not speaking. Everyone was focused on his own race to finish the best race. I was injured in my ankle and I was focused on my race and not speaking because I was tired too.
iRunFar: As you crossed the finish line, finishing third place in the world championships among a very competitive field, did you have a feeling of satisfaction yesterday? I know you said you went into it looking to be the first person to win the title twice, but were you still satisfied?
Court: Yes, I had a deception for sure because I’m a competitor first. When you’re a competitor, when you have the title, when you want to defend your title and you want to win, that’s sure. I trained very hard for a lot of months for this focus of the race with the French team. It was a very hard preparation. Now, Luis Alberto was too strong yesterday. He was the best of the race. Some events of the race changed, too. At 73k aid station, I forgot my bib in my backpack, so I turned back and lost one minute on Nico. After that aid station, I ran very, very fast to catch up. I was tired, and it was very difficult to come back on Nico. With my ankle, I could not fight at 100%.
iRunFar: I hope you walk away feeling at least a sense of pride over your third place in a competitive race and over the complete dominance of Team France at yesterday’s competition—five men in the top 10 and many minutes ahead of any other team. You should feel a sense of pride for that, I think.
Court: Yes, it was very important for the French staff and the French federation to have a great group. The group is very strong because they made a training camp three weeks ago in the south of France. During this camp, we trained very hard but always with joking and always with a good mentality and never with fighting or bad conditions and always with positive attitude. For the staff and for me, it’s important to get the gold medal.
iRunFar: Congratulations to you on your Team France gold medal as well as your personal bronze yesterday.
Court: Thank you very much.
iRunFar: Congrats again.