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Samir Ait Said: 'Even amidst my misfortune, it was an extraordinary moment'

Publication date : 08/08/2016

FIG President Bruno Grandi visited French gymnast Samir Ait Said in the hospital Sunday, one day after his heartbreaking fall on Vault during men’s qualification at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. The 2013 European champion on Still Rings, who sustained an open double fracture of the tibia and fibula, underwent a successful surgery at the Samaritano Hospital in Rio de Janeiro and will be released on Monday. (Cliquer ici pour la version française)

“Taking into account the type of injury and the quality and rapidity of the surgical treatment, we expect that he will recover well. We are optimistic that he will be able to return to Gymnastics in a reasonable amount of time,” said Dr. Michel Léglise, President of the FIG Medical Commission.

Deeply touched by the wave of sympathy that followed the end of his Olympic hopes in Rio, Samir Ait Said has managed to keep a smile on his face and retain the good humour that is one of his primary characteristics. For him, “it is an honour and a true privilege to be at the Olympic Games,” even if he won’t be able to compete in the Still Rings final he qualified for. “You are a champion! I was never able to participate in an Olympic Games as an athlete myself,” the FIG President, a former member of the Italian junior national team, told him.

Samir Ait Said (FRA) with FIG President Bruno Grandi (ITA)

Q: Samir, how are you feeling a day after your injury?

Samir: “I am very well. The surgery went well. I saw the scans and it’s true that the injury is not very nice to see. Everyone was a bit surprised by my reaction. I didn’t scream, I just knew instantly that it was over. I need to accept it. So immediately, I thought about the Olympic Games in Tokyo. Not to keep hope, but because I am determined. I want this Olympic medal and I will get it. So I was in a hurry to have surgery. Today I was able to walk again.”

Q: The images of your fall went around the world within a few minutes. Were you surprised by the wave of emotions that they evoked?

Samir: “When leaving the arena I already saw everyone standing up. That’s the value of the Olympic spirit. We are not a country but an identity: we are Olympians. When I waved to the public to thank them, everyone applauded. Even amidst my misfortune, it was an extraordinary moment. The proof is that I didn’t even cry. This was a human experience. Even the Vault judges supported me. They were saddened and I wish to thank them for their kind words. On social media, many people wished me a speedy recovery and above all that they said that they want to see me come back stronger at the Tokyo Games.”

Q: Are you usually able to master the Tsukahara double pike vault? How do you explain what happened?

Samir: “I performed this vault well the day before in the training hall. I had planned to do it. On competition day, I was a bit off center, but I don’t really know why.”

Q: At the 2012 European Championships in Montpellier, you had an accident on Vault that destroyed your London Olympic dreams. Do you still believe another Olympic adventure is possible?

Samir: “One thing is for sure: I will fight and work hard to go to the Tokyo Games and to bring home a medal. And if I succeed after a big injury like this, it will be even more magical. I’m not done with Gymnastics at 26 years old. Look at gymnasts like Epke Zonderland, who is over 30 and still winning medals. I will go and watch the other competitors on Still Rings here in Rio and support them. Arthur Zanetti and Eleftherios Petrounias are my friends too. Today I’m not there anymore, but in four years I will be!”