Maé-Bérénice Méité ranked twelfth at Skate Canada. We met her to discuss her return to competition and her plans.
Solène: How did you approach this Skate Canada?
Maé: I was invited mid-season following Nicole Schott's withdrawal, and it's an opportunity I seized. I know I am not yet where I want to be due to a complex start to the season. However, I wanted to take full advantage of this chance. I was thrilled to be invited! I had already participated in Skate America, the Grand Prix of France and Russia, and the NHK Trophy, but it was my very first Skate Canada.
Solène: What is your assessment of the competition?
Maé: I was very disappointed with my performance on the short program. My practices and the warm-up went rather well but I was disoriented on the Axel. I was surprised to fall on the loop because I felt good about it. On the Lutz, I had a moment of hesitation that cost me a lot, but I tried to live the program to the end. The free program was, again, a real mental challenge. I attempted most of the elements, but I still have a lot of work to do. It's hard, but I knew it would be. I'm taking things one step at a time and keep moving forward.
Solène: What were your goals for this competition?
Maé: Regarding points, I didn’t have a specific goal for the time being because, technically, I'm not doing everything I would like to. However, regarding performance, I wanted to live my programs and show the choreographic work we have done. When technique is not good, it's easy to forget the importance of choreography and interpretation. I work on this aspect daily, and I wanted to be able to show it. I want to avoid any form of restraint, share the joy of the performance with the audience, and, most importantly, enjoy it myself.
Solène: You've had several injuries lately; how are you doing?
Maé: Last season was going rather well, especially during the Grand Prix of France with an eighth-place finish, but I later developed a bone edema. I hung on for the French Championships, then realized I needed time to heal. We tried to heal the injury to qualify for the World Championships, but time ran out. Psychologically, it was tough. I thought I was returning for myself, but then I realized I wanted to prove something. Many people doubted my return, especially after rupturing my Achilles tendon in March 2021. I'm a competitor, and I want to prove that I can come back. From March 2023 until June, I completely stopped training. I spent time with my parents and recharged, both physically and emotionally. I also focused on other projects that didn't require physical activity. This break was necessary for both my psychological well-being and for properly healing my injury. After these four months without training, the return was difficult, but it also allowed me to heal my injury more deeply. Now, we are working on muscle strengthening and tendon rehabilitation. It's a process that will take time, but it doesn't prevent me from skating and training.
Solène: Before the Masters, you posted a message on social media sharing your feelings. Can you tell us about it?
Maé: I knew I wasn't ready for the Masters. After four months without skating, I had only been back training for about a month. Knowing this, I was relatively satisfied with my performance at the Masters, but the closer the competition came, the more I questioned myself. I know how our sport works: consciously or unconsciously, we are judged. And at 29, some might think I should retire. But I had a message: I know I'm not at my best, but there's a reason. I know why I'm doing it, and there's a process. Don't make excuses for me, but know where I'm coming from. I also wanted to create a protective barrier for myself and get into my bubble. As athletes, we tend to be our own worst critics. I didn't want harmful or destructive thoughts to reach me. We often keep our inner storms to ourselves. We always have to project an image of excellence. It's hard to know that I'm not ready and yet present myself on the ice. This year, and in the seasons to come, I want to be more vulnerable. And for that, I have to accept the situation as it is. I want to continue sharing this journey and showing the reality of being a high-level athlete. It's not always victories or moments of redemption. Showing this journey, with its ups and downs, can be just as beautiful. I want the audience to see what the beginning of a season looks like when you're not ready when there are tears, doubts, and questions.
Solène: The audience also supports you.
Maé: Yes, I see and hear their support. I set such high goals for myself that when I don't achieve them, I feel like I've disappointed everyone. I must remember that the audience supports me for who I am, not just because I've landed specific jumps. There will be hard days, but they are always there. I read the messages of support and see the impact I can have, even when I think my performance was bad. People tell me I inspire them because I persevere; they see me as a fighter with resilience. I don't always realize it. I sometimes think, 'If you don't win, how can you inspire?' But that's not the right mindset. You can inspire in many ways, not just with medals. In difficult times, the words of all these people who support me, encourage me, have followed me for years, who come to competitions, who haven't missed a single event, whether on TV or in person, warm my heart. When young skaters come up to ask for a photo, that's incredible.
Solène: Are you still working with Lorenzo Magri, in addition to John Zimmerman and Silvia Fontana?
Maé: Yes, I was in Italy for a time, but I have always trained with John and Silvia since 2018, and I will continue to work with Lorenzo as well. I haven't had the chance to see him recently, but my team consists of John and Sylvia in Florida, where I spend most of my time, and then Lorenzo for technique on jumps.
Solène: Your goal is the 2026 Olympic Games. Why is this so important to you after participating in 2014 and 2018?
Maé: Because I know I haven't given it my all yet. In Sochi, I had youthful enthusiasm. I said I would make the top 10, and I did. That was my peak in terms of performance. In 2018, it was different but more beautiful because no one expected it. My goal was to qualify for the free program because I hadn't qualified for the free program at the 2016 World Championships in Boston. For the Milan 2026 Olympics, my goals are very ambitious. We are building the foundations so that Milan will be something grand. My approach to high-performance athlete training has changed. I've experienced highs but also lows. How to get back to the top? That's the path I am currently on. Maybe it will help others and change some standards in elite sports. Participating in three Olympic Games would be great; let's dream big and wild! Furthermore, Milan is close to France, so my parents can come - unlike in Sochi and Pyeongchang. It would be beautiful to have my family there and also maybe two French female skaters since I was the only French female skater qualified since 2002 (NB: In 2002, Vanessa Gusmeroli and Laetitia Hubert represented France). We could have a big team, and it would be magnificent.
Solène: So, you're also considering the team event?
Maé: Yes, absolutely.
Solène: How has your experience helped you to adapt your training methods?
Maé: Although some may think the opposite when they see me, I know I haven't yet reached my physical limits. Many think I am on the decline, that I've been injured for a long time. But I've learned a lot from these difficult periods. I ignored my body's signals and even adopted some somewhat toxic patterns. Now, I'm not just thinking about losing weight, which makes no sense. I am working on building a high-performance body. I know my body fat, muscle mass, allergies, sensitivities, etc. I am implementing all these changes to prepare for Milan, which means I also have to be ready for the 2025 World Championships - the qualifying event.
Solène: You have continued your studies alongside skating and have several projects. Can you tell us about them?
Maé: I have a master's degree in Management and Marketing, specializing in Business Development, from the University of Montpellier. Initially, I wanted to study chemistry, but it wasn't compatible with my skating schedule. It's hard to bring the lab to the competition (laughs). After a gap year to prepare for the Sochi Olympics, I resumed studies in management sciences. I needed to do something alongside skating. I struggled at first, repeating my first year three times. I almost quit, especially as it was the first time I had failed at something, whether in skating or school. I obtained my master's degree the year I ruptured my Achilles tendon. It's as if the universe sent me a sign; the time off from the ice due to my injury allowed me to complete my studies. I wrote my thesis on the dichotomy between sports management and expectations towards athletes. I am currently working on a sports management platform. One of my goals is to help athletes monetize their image. Most high-level athletes are amateurs with no fixed salary. Some are in precarious situations. In skating for instance, if you get injured, you can no longer do galas, and it becomes financially difficult. Through my journey, I understand this situation and want to offer a solution. It is crucial to find additional sources of income for athletes. Every athlete should act as the CEO of their own career.
Solène: Are you continuing your YouTube channel?
Maé: Maintaining a YouTube channel is challenging. The scripting, filming, and editing are all time-consuming and require significant effort. I would need a team, but that requires financial resources. For now, I am putting that project on hold while still looking for potential collaborations, especially since the sports management platform I wish to launch could benefit many athletes, particularly those preparing for the Paris Games and who could be struggling financially.
Solène: Regarding Paris 2024, you are also working on a documentary called “Allo Champion”. Can you tell us more?
Maé: We are following five athletes on their journey to qualify for the Paris 2024 Games. There's Dimitri in athletics, Émilie in boxing, Marie-Divine in cycling, Cyrille in para-volley, and Coralie in fencing. These athletes share their daily lives to show what the life of a high-level athlete is really like. I look forward to seeing the final result I'm glad we are accompanying them on this adventure. All of them appear to be on a good path toward qualification. I am the marketing director, a role that took me out of my comfort zone. I am naturally shy and hate the idea of being intrusive. Yet, this role has pushed me to seek sponsors, negotiate partnerships, and bounce back from rejections, which has taught me a lot. As for distribution, we are still in discussions to find a suitable platform. Although TV is often the first option, we also explore other options.
Solène: How do you juggle all of this?
Maé: Finding the right balance is a challenge. Recently, the increased training load has required me to adjust my schedule to manage fatigue better. The challenge is to determine when to train and when to rest. I could work all day after training, but it's not ideal if I neglect rest time. So, I continue to adjust and find the middle ground. There is progress; we are on the right track.
Solène: On a more personal note, do you see your future in France or the United States?
Maé: I feel great in Florida, but France remains my anchor with my family and friends. However, I appreciate the American business mentality. I am also curious about Asia, especially Singapore, which seems to have a very dynamic business environment. In the future, don't be surprised to find me living a globe-trotter lifestyle, splitting my time between the United States, France, and perhaps even Asia.
Solène MATHIEU - Skate Info Glace