It’s only impossible if you think it is. Meet Florian Jouanny
In 2011 Florian’s life was turned upside down by a skiing accident. Instead of letting it get him down, Florian found the strength to move on and challenge himself to take part in an IRONMAN. In 2017, not only did he take part, but he became the first European quadriplegic athlete to finish an IRONMAN.
When did you start thinking about doing an Ironman and where did the idea come from?
It started before my accident, I had a lot of admiration for people who line up for this kind of race. I had thought of doing it but the idea of swimming 3.8 km, in addition to the many hours spent training in the pool, stopped me in my tracks.
Two years after the accident, as I began to enjoy long handbike rides, I talked with my friends about IRONMAN.
I then thought that it would be fantastic to participate in such a race; then I came back to my senses and told myself I was nowhere near good enough for that. But for days, weeks and months, I could not get the idea out of my head. I really was not good enough, but I had the desire and a deep belief that it was possible if I made the necessary sacrifices!
When I started to tell people that I wanted to do an Ironman, I kept on hearing things like “You’re sick, it’s impossible”, or “First, try to do a triathlon S, then we’ll see…”, and that really gave me all the motivation I needed.
How long did you train for? And how did you manage to balance your everyday/personal life and your training for this big goal?
My training lasted about 4 years, but only 2 years with real dedication. Depending on the periods, I trained between 10-25 hours a week. Of course, I had to juggle things around to fit in my studies, sport and social life, helped by proper organization and training plans carefully prepared by Rémi Aiguebonne, but it was a success.
What was the role of your family along this journey?
The family plays a big role in this kind of challenge, whether you are looking for help with logistics or simply mental support. They gave me a lot during my preparation, even joining in some of my training sessions from time to time. They also provided vital help with logistics during the IRONMAN. And for this, I thank them!
Tell us about the relationship with your friend and guide Rémi. How was having a friend as a guide? Do you consider yourselves “a team”?
I think we can talk about brotherly friendship. Rémi and I share many things, including sport, swimming… He is a lifeguard, so when I had to choose someone to guide me in the water… I didn’t hesitate, I immediately asked him, and he gladly accepted. I think we were more than a team during the race.
Were there moments when you thought about quitting/giving up (both during training and racing)? And what gave you the motivation to hold on and continue your challenge?
The only time when abandoning or not being able to finish crossed my mind was when I punctured a tire during the marathon. From the moment I heard the tire deflate, I thought to myself: “Trouble! What if I can’t finish because of that…”. Finally, I figured that even with a flat tire I could still ride and since I still had some time left, I wanted to finish at all costs…
What was your first thought when you crossed the finish line?
HAPPINESS! A mixture of feelings were buzzing around my heart and mind, but happiness dominated. The smiles and tears of my relatives only made this feeling stronger.
If you had to sum up your experience in 3 words, which ones would you choose?
Galvanizing, intense, rewarding.
What about you, what’s your story?