Two-time French Olympian Isabelle Severino's gymnastics career ended with a painful injury just prior to the 2008 Olympics, but she has moved on and is thriving as a journalist, graphic designer, television personality and French Olympic committee official.
Isabelle Severino (France) at the 2005 Worlds
Born April 9, 1980, in Paris, Severino won the bronze medal on uneven bars at the 1996 World Championships in San Juan and placed 13th all-around at the 1996 Olympic Games. She was 10th all-around at the 1997 World Championships in Lausanne. Severino retired from competition prior to the 2000 Olympics, and embarked on careers as an internationally-ranked aerobics competitor, Cirque du Soleil performing artist and owner of a graphic design firm.
Severino returned to training less than a year before the 2004 Olympics in Athens, where she helped France place sixth in the team final. She won the gold medal on floor exercise at the 2005 Europeans in Debrecen, Hungary. She was a bars finalist at the 2005 Worlds in Melbourne and a beam finalist at the 2007 Worlds in Stuttgart. A double injury at the 2008 Europeans in Clermont-Ferrand, France, formally ended her competitive career.
Although Severino's gymnastics career ended in disappointment just a few months prior to the 2008 Olympics, she quickly shifted her focus toward other professional options. She runs Arts et Conception, a graphic design firm in Paris, and also works as a gymnastics journalist and commentator. Last summer she appeared on the popular French game show "Fort Boyard," where and her fellow celebrity teammates completed a series of physical and endurance challenges to win money for the children's charity "Un maillot pour la vie." (She also appeared on the show in 1998.) The episode in which Severino appeared was broadcast again in June. In addition, she holds two high positions in the Comité National Olympique du Sport Français.
Severino recently gave IG her thoughts on her experiences as a gymnast, and the bountiful life since has since been enjoying.
IG: What was your experience like as a competitor on "Fort Boyard"?
IS: I did three events, each of which required an agility that was not very easy, but I carried them out with success. In the past year, we had the team that earned the most money for our charity – over 20,000 Euros. My teammates were Fabien Pelous, the ex-captain of the French rugby team; Élodie Gossuin, former Miss France; Joel Abati, a member of the French handball team; Romain Mesnil, world silver medalist in pole vault; and Nathalie Besançon, an actress on a French television series.
IG: What kind of charity did your group play for on "Un maillot pour la vie," and what is your ongoing involvement with it?
IS: The association comes to the aid of sick children, with all kinds of illnesses. We organize visits in hospitals with children, and we take some of them to sports events and do kick-offs for matches in soccer, rugby, handball and basketball, and other events.
IG: Besides this show, and your work as chief of Art et Conception, what other projects are you currently involved in?
IS: I am also a representive of high-level athletes within the National Olympic Committee as well as vice-chairwoman of the National Olympic Committee of French Sports. As well, I do a radio program every Saturday to speak about sports.
IG: When you were injured in Clermont-Ferrand, you seemed devastated. However, we saw you working behind the scenes at the Olympics in Beijing, and it seemed that your injury quickly opened new doors for you. How were you able to overcome the disappointment of your injury so soon, and find new goals to pursue?
IS: My injury in Clermond-Ferrand was a catastrophe, because I ruptured the Achilles' tendon and displaced the internal malleolus medialis. This injury handicapped me for more than a year, and I knew right away that I was going to have to stop my career because of it. It was very tough! And three months later, the Olympic Games! French television was very nice in that they offered me to work on the commentary, and this allowed me not to be too focused on my sport, since I had to detach myself in the role of journalist. It was a hard summer, but better than if I had stayed in France all alone! And furthermore, we had two medals for the guys (all-around bronze medalist Benoit Caranobe and vault silver medalist Thomas Bouhail). I lived these Games through them!
IG: How do you manage to run a company that is so creative, while pursuing other projects?
IS: I adore my work because we can work with the world and in completely difference circles, the purpose being to emphasize society or people. I confess that high-level sports helped me a lot. It is necessary to be definite, careful, to search for perfection and to be listening while being reactive. I am surrounded by a very good team, and it has been 10 years of hard work. I would like to be able to last for a very long time.
IG: What plans if any do you have to continue in competitive gymnastics?
IS: I'm not training anymore. My injury handicapped me for a long time, and to come back would certainly not have been very reasonable. From time to time I do small exhibitions, but nothing of a high level. I meet with many young gymnasts, I talk with them and sign autographs. I do some fashion photo shoots, and I do a little bit of stunts with friends for small TV movies, but it stops there!
IG: Beyond competitive gymnastics, how involved do you wish to stay in gymnastics?
IS: If one day I am given to become crazy and to dream, I shall like to train in the United States. After the film "Stick It" (in which she was a stunt double), where I had worked with certain American coaches as I was alone for three months, I came to love the manner, ambience and psychology around training. This positive mind, and thinking always that nothing is innaccessible, pleases me tremendously!
But I really believe I am now too old for this type of challenge. Today my challenge is more in the transmission and trying to improve the conditions of all the athletes in France! I want to give back to sports all the beautiful and magnificent things that it has brought to my life.
If I should stay in gymnastics, I prefer to do it as a commentator or journalist. I know that I can transmit my passion to people who don't really know this sport. I like to share, and excite people. This was already the case when I was a gymnast, and therefore I will like to do it if TV asks me to!
External Link: Arts et Conception
Isabelle Severino is featured in the following issues of International Gymnast magazine:
May 2008: 2008 European Championships coverage
August/September 2005: Severino cover photo, 2005 European Championships coverage
November 2004: Athens Olympic profiles, including Severino
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