Franco Senegalese bi-national, Jean-Pierre Bourhis is looking forward to becoming the first ever slalom athlete to represent the West African country at the Olympic Games when the global sporting showcase takes place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in August.
Having gained Senegalese nationality in August 2015, Bourhis gained qualification through his C1 Men’s gold medal at the 2015 Canoe Slalom African Championships in Kenya in November 2015, booking his spot at the globe’s largest sporting event for the first time in his career.
“It will be my first participation in the Olympia games and I’ve been waiting this event for a long time,” bubbles a thrilled Bourhis.
“Rio is an amazing city, I love it and I’m very happy to take part in this year’s Olympic Games in Brazil.”
The 21 year-old’s journey to Brazil started five years ago and much time and energy has gone into preparing for the great occasion.
“I start paddling when I was eight years old and for the past five years I have been training every day, whether it be paddling on flat white water, gyming, running and even gymnastics – to develop my skills.
“I continue to train hard though because I know that the road is long to be the best.”
While appreciative of the length of time it takes to reach the top, Bourhis is hopeful his efforts at Rio can aid in him one day emulating the feat of his idol – France-based Benjamin Boukpeti, a powerhouse of slalom paddling in the 2000s who claimed Togo’s first ever Olympic medal at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing when he won bronze in the K1 Men’s event.
“My goal for Rio is to go as far as I can, I don’t have a limit. The Olympic Games is a very special event and anything can happen.
“I’m working on increasing my power and increasing my form month-on-month. It’s a long preparation so I must be patient and accept that at some races before Rio I will not be in peak form because the preparation is focus on Olympic Games, for which we have put a lot of travel and training,” explains Bourhis.
Despite his French ties, the INAS Rennes Mechanical Engineering student is aware of the potential impact his participation at this year’s Olympic Games may have on the sport of slalom, and paddling in general, in Senegal, the home of his grandparents.
“Representing not only my country, but continent as well is something special and I will try to do my best.
“I don’t want to be a ‘universal quota’, I want to show that Africa belongs in slalom and that I deserve to my place at the Olympic Games.
It will be one of the biggest races of my career and for sure I will never forget it, even though I am already planning for the next Olympic Games 2020.”