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Alexis Lebrun’s interview: France will get the Olympics medals

The Paris 2024 Olympics will start very soon. And Alexis Lebrun and Félix Lebrun are the 2 new hopes for team France table tennis. Today, we will have an interview with Alexis Lebrun, what he is aiming for during the very hard training session in Montpelier table tennis club.

Currently injured, Alexis Lebrun is preparing his return to the table, scheduled for March. On this occasion, he did us the honor of answering our questions. First interview of a long series, in anticipation of the 2024 Olympic Games.

It is in this context that comes Alexis Lebrun , a French table tennis player who has gone from the rank of hope to the best Frenchman on the world level in the space of a few months.

Alexis Lebrun: “I will fight for medals at the Olympics”

Q: In 2022 you beat Dimitrij Ovtcharov and Liang Jingkun, who at that time were world No. 9 and world No. 3, how did you experience it, did you realize you were doing something crazy for a French table tennis player?

A: I realized that through the messages I received, through everything that followed. After my victory over Ovtcharov , I spent the afternoon answering messages. Maybe I shouldn’t have, because I hadn’t got into the habit of turning off my phone and that contributed to the accumulation of fatigue for the rest of the competition, but I was happy to receive all his messages. Ovtcharov, it was the first time that I met a player of this level. I had played Franziska(current world No. 13), but that was different, as he never won an Olympic medal. Ovtcharov is a table tennis legend. I was already happy to play it, because I had a wild card and in the end it was really special: the atmosphere, playing on a central table, waiting in the locker room. Everything impressed me, but when I entered the playing area, I had only one desire, and that was to win. It went really well, but I didn’t expect it and from that match, I realized that I was capable of playing against players of that level. This is what allowed me to make good matches on Harimoto (current world n°4) and on Falck (current world n°32), which I beat in Tunis. Then in Macau I beat Liang Jingkun in the beautiful , then I lost in the beautiful face to Lin Yun-Ju (current world n°8). In the end, it was the match against Dima Ovtcharov that started it all, because I think it was really a reference match.

Alexis Lebrun vs Tomokazu Harimoto
Alexis Lebrun vs Tomokazu Harimoto

Q: You will resume competition in March, by Pro B?

A: There will surely be a Pro B meeting, and there is the Grand Smash in Singapore from March 7 to 20 (new prestigious tournament organized by the WTT, with a prize money of 2 million euros, editor’s note) , just before the French championships (from March 24 to 26, editor’s note). I hope to be there, but I’m not putting any pressure on myself.

Q: So double objective with the accession in Pro A and the conservation of the title of champion of France?

A: Yes, the club’s objective is to move up to Pro A. For the moment, we are first with a late game. The French championships are also a goal, but that will depend on my injury. I don’t know what state I’ll be in, but whatever happens, I’ll be there to win, to do my best to defend my title. In doubles, I aim for the final victory as well.

Q: With the 2024 Olympics in sight?

A: Yes, I hope I will qualify and fight for medals.

Introduction of Alexis Lebrun

Question: For those who don’t know you, can you introduce yourself?

Answer: I’ve been playing table tennis since I was three years old (he’s currently 19, editor’s note), currently I’m French n°1 and world n°28 (n°27 since the last update, editor’s note) ). In 2022, I reached the quarter-finals at the world team championships and I won the bronze medal in doubles (with his brother Félix, editor’s note) at the European championships.

Injury of Alexis Lebrun
Injury of Alexis Lebrun

Q: Why did you choose table tennis, is it a family affair?

A: My father (Stéphane Lebrun, editor’s note) was a coach and ex-player, he was French No. 7, my uncle was world No. 14 (Christophe Legoût, editor’s note), so it was in the family. At the same time, I tried several sports, I did basketball and tennis, but I preferred to continue “table tennis”.

Q: You currently play in Montpellier, have you always played there?

A: It’s my first club and Nathanaël (Molin, editor’s note) is my first coach. I have always trained here. I only left for six months last season at Cergy-Pontoise as a medical joker.

Q: Nathanaël Molin supervises you, as well as Jérémy Surrault, physical trainer?

A: Yes it is. Jérémy has followed me since I was six or seven.

Q: Is this collaboration a strength, a richness?

A: With my brother, we were lucky to have a great team. We take advantage of it and we continue to work. They know us very well, we get along well, so that’s always a plus.

Beating Simon Gauzy 4-0

Q: Champion of France 2022, beating Simon Gauzy 4 sets to 0 in the final, is this the best victory of your career?

A: I don’t know, maybe ( he hesitates ), it’s possible, because being champion of France is something that represents a lot. This is my best victory so far, but I hope there will be others. Since childhood, this title has been a dream and that day, in a full room, to manage to play at this level to put 4-0 to Simon… He is my idol, I had his poster being small. I hope there will be bigger matches in the future, but this one is among the best.

Alexis Lebrun defeated 4-0 Simon Gauzy (7)
Alexis Lebrun defeated 4-0 Simon Gauzy (7)

Q: Simon, you know him, have you had a relationship with him over time?

A: For the past two years, I’ve had more contact with him, in training or in competitions, or even in Germany and Brazil, as part of training. We got to know each other, he’s a super nice person and it’s going really well.

Q: Regarding the France team and your 2022 season, it was crazy, how did you experience it?

A: My first call-up with the France team was during the European championships. But it went very very quickly, it started in January 2022, where I performed on the WTT circuit. Then everything was linked and it accelerated from the summer when I beat members of the top 10 in the world. In the France team, it worked rather well, we won a medal in doubles and a quarter-final as a team. So it was a little crazy this year, but it was all positive, so that’s cool ( laughs ).

Q: Did you manage to put aside the media attention you received, or finally, did you also give in to wonder?

A: I was amazed, but it happened so quickly that I didn’t really have time to realize it, before my injury and the fact of having a cut. I was always projected from competition to competition, because I had between 250 and 300 days of competition in the year 2022. I didn’t have too much time to realize and I continued to play. I was sure of the wave, surfing what I was doing. Now I realize everything that has changed, it’s still cool ( laughs ).

Q: How does it feel to be asked by the media ( laughs )?

A: I got used to it pretty quickly. It’s always nice to see that more and more people want to talk about table tennis and me ( laughs )! I try to do my best, so that the table tennis is more and more visible. On the side, Nathanaël helps me a lot, he’s the one who manages, so that it’s easier for me. Otherwise, it can waste my time and concentration, which can interfere with practice times. We found a good compromise.

The best player in Europe

Q: Did you realize that you were in the process of integrating this caste of the best table tennis players in the world, because visually, you made a very strong impression.

A: Yes, because I didn’t feel like I was on a “rute” ( laughs ), I felt like I was at my best mentally and in the racket, it wasn’t better than usual, it was a good match. I felt that I could reproduce this level of play in many other matches. I said to myself that if I was able to compete against Ovtacharov, who does not lose many matches, it is because I can look everyone straight in the eye. The week before, I had lost to Liang Jingkun, but I was leading 1-0, 6-1 , that was another match in which I was able to compete with one of the best players in the world. These competitions in Budapest allowed me to garner a lot of confidence.

Alexis Lebrun and Felix Lebrun at WTT Summer 2022
Alexis Lebrun and Felix Lebrun at WTT Summer 2022

Q: You faced your little brother in the semi-finals of France in 2022, what feelings does that give, pride?

A: It’s cool, because we played late, even if we would have preferred to play in the final ( laughs ). But in half, it’s already not bad. In this competition, we were both quite happy with our tournament. On a daily basis, the fact that he is there is a help, especially for training. We also evolve in the same team (in Pro B with Montpellier, editor’s note), we have the same supervising team, whether it is the coach, the physical trainer and the physiotherapist. It’s an advantage, also when you go into competition. Then, I’m super happy for him, he plays better and better ( Félix Lebrun is currently world No. 73, at 16), it’s only positive. And there is no rivalry between us, if he plays better, it will help me to progress and we both try to pull each other up.

Injury in table tennis

Q: Regarding your injury, do you have a knee injury?

A: Yes, it’s not much, it’s an injury related to wear and the surplus of competition. It pulled on the knees, it had been going on for a while, because I let it drag on with the sequence of competitions. With my coaches, we decided that it was the best time to cut and to heal me permanently.

Q: When you were younger, you were injured for a long time in the elbow, what should help you now to apprehend this ordeal more serenely?

A: Yes, I’m used to it, I’ve always been injured since I was young, I suffered from all the growing wounds that exist: Sever’s disease, Osgood-Schlatter’s disease. Then I had a long elbow injury and I played despite the injury, without training, doing the minimum. Then I had surgery, I stopped for a year. Finally, I know how to manage this, I continue to train, but working in other physical areas. I have not yet returned to service and this period is used to progress on details.

Q: We know that table tennis players are adept at this kind of recovery, that is to say, continuing to train by adapting the sessions, despite the injury, Ovtcharov did it in 2022 in particular, it is a operation that suits you?

A: Yes, but I’m not doing like Ovtacharov, when he trained sitting at the table, but working physically, putting the body back in place, and thinking, watching and analyzing matches, and doing things on the side so as not to not waste time.

Simon Gauzy Alexis Lebrun Felix Lebrun
Simon Gauzy Alexis Lebrun Felix Lebrun

Q: What kind of matches can you watch, yours?

A: I watched a lot of lives, I followed the junior world championships during which the French team was present. I also watch the WTTs and from time to time my matches, but more than those of others, because I prefer to watch matches of which I don’t know the result, to have the feeling of live ( laughs ).

Q: On the aspect of training, Jérémy Surrault’s methods are innovative, in particular the exercise which consists of playing a move at the table, then another at chess, finally chess-table tennis, what do you think? on it?

A: Yes, in Montpellier there is a different style of training. With Jérémy, I’m used to working with him, but he thinks a lot, to try to find new exercises, new things to work on, especially on the aspect of vision and what is related to the brain. . Knowing how to remain lucid in complex moments, he did it with chess, we also do it on service, mental calculation. All this serves to improve the reaction time and therefore reduce it. Succeed in having a better vision, which serves us in adversity at the table.

Alexis Lebrun vs Mattias Falck
Alexis Lebrun vs Mattias Falck

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Table tennis coach in France since 2012, founder of pingsunday.com (the best online coaching program for table tennis players). Born in Vietnam in 1983, Ph.D. in Université Pierre Marie Curie. Read more about him.

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