Pontlevoy on COVID-19 and Injury Rehab: ‘It’s a Second Chance’

Written by John Crumlish for International Gymnast Online

Saturday, May 2, 2020

French gymnast Claire Pontlevoy told International Gymnast that the new timing of the postponed Olympic Games in Tokyo may well be promising for her after all, given that a torn ACL would have kept her out of the Games had they remained on schedule for July.

“I was very happy because, when I learned of my injury, it was very hard to tell myself that I could not participate in the Olympic Games,” said Pontlevoy, who injured her left knee on floor exercise in training in February. “It’s a second chance.”

Pontlevoy had gained momentum towards Tokyo last year when she finished third all-around at the French Championships in May and helped France place fifth in the team final at the World Championships in Stuttgart in October.

The French squad’s ranking in Stuttgart earned it a team berth to Tokyo, for which Pontlevoy resumes her trek after the Games were moved to July 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. She underwent surgery, performed by Dr. Romain Rousseau, at Clinique Maussins-Nollet in Paris on March 14.

“I plan to be back in September, but we will see, depending on the rehabilitation but also on the possibility of training following the virus,” said Pontlevoy, who trains under coaches Marc Chirilcenco and Gina Chirilcenco, as well as Carole Boin and Cornel and Iuliana Adams, at Avon Beaumont Gymnastique in Beaumont-en-Véron.

Pontlevoy was born November 17, 2003, in Kourou, French Guiana, where her father Emmanuel, a professional firefighter, had been transferred from France to work on the launch base for Ariane rockets. Pontlevoy and her older brother Alban were born in French Guiana.

The family returned to France when she was nine months old, and Pontlevoy’s gymnastics career began in a baby gym class nine months later. She started formal training at age six.

Pontlevoy and her siblings, three of whom play handball, are keeping one another motivated and active during quarantine at their home in Saint-Georges-sur-Cher.

“I’m lucky to have a very large garden so I spend most of my time outside,” said Pontlevoy, who as a child trained in both sports before focusing on gymnastics. “Following the announcement of confinement, we have set up a weight room in the wing of the house that we do not use. Thanks to this room, my brothers, my sisters and I can train with equipment.”

Athlete-to-athlete advice from Alban, who plays semi-professional handball for the Chartres Metropole club, has been particularly meaningful to Pontlevoy as she continues her recovery process. “He told me that it will only be one more pitfall on my way and that I will come back stronger as always,” she said.

With her Olympic dream initially pushed aside but now merely pushed back a year, Pontlevoy said her latest setback has, like previous challenges, made her more resolute.

“I learned a lot from my injuries and each time I came back stronger,” she told International Gymnast. “I grew up and became aware of what my body can bring me and what I can bring to it by taking care of it.”

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