Q&A with… Julien Di Maria

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Country: Kenya

Profession: Mentor

Julien is a former French 5000m athlete. He now works as a mentor and representative in Kenya. His list of mentees includes, among others, Sheila Chepkirui – ranked 1st in Women’s Road Running, Benard Kimeli -ranked 7th in Men’s Road Running, and Stephen Kiprop – ranked 8th Men’s Road Running.

What has been a defining moment in your career?

The sudden death of my colleague, Zane Branson, has been a career-defining moment for me. This tragic event made me realize how precious life is and how short it can be. It made me think about working in a field I like and doing more of that which matters to me. “Life is short, do things that matter” is a great quote.

Since we lost Zane, there is not a single day that I haven’t enjoyed being with our athletes in training. This is the part of my job I like the most: mentoring. This has also strengthened my passion and commitment to it. This is one of the main reasons, I believe, I have achieved some success in what I am doing – I do it with a full and committed heart, no matter what.

What was the first thought that went through your mind when you heard the Tokyo Olympics had been postponed?
My first thought was that it would allow us more time to prepare and refine our choices in terms of preparation. I believe the more time we have to prepare for a big event, the better it is, as we get more experience along the way. Experience matters.

What is your greatest extravagance? 
Fine wine and books. I could spend a day looking for any of the two. I am fortunate enough to have a good collection of both.

Which superpower would you like to have?
Time-travel. Going back to the past, or seeing the future – that should be interesting!

When under pressure, what do you say to yourself to help you get through it? 
I try to stay positive. I say to myself that as long as I am alive, it is OK. I know I should not worry and I try to think about people and things I love that are more important than pressure itself. When you don’t worry much, nothing can stop you. Imagination is also another option – when I am under pressure I can tell myself to create ideas or bring new things into my mind; this process is a bit more philosophical, but it helps a lot. This is why people often tell me that I am in my own world. Actually, I am in the labyrinth of my thoughts and that helps deflect pressures of day-to-day events.

What three things you would take with you if had to be stranded on a desert island for a year?
A notebook, a pen and a bottle of good cognac.