VERSION FRAN«AISE

Corinne CASTETS
  ... the SURVIVOR

  
This article originally appeared, in edited form,
in the 2004-3 issue of The Squash Player.
This is the original
.
 
Corinne Castets
has represented France in 20 consecutive European Team Championships plus several World Team Championships, setting a world record of 160 caps in the process. This feat, easily surpassing the previous best of 120 by Sweden's Fredrik Johnson, was recognised by a commendation from ESF President Chris Stahl.

She has competed on the WISPA World Tour for 14 years, with 66 tournament appearances and two titles.

The Squash Player's panel of experts voted her Player of the Month, and Framboise caught up with her at, and after, the European Team Championships in Rennes. 
  

"I wanted to win,  to win and to win!"
 

  
The Survivor is alive and
well, and lives in Toulouse Ö


Yes, Corinne Castets is a Survivor.

Sheís played 20 European Team Championships in a row, and sheís here. Sheís suffered from a poor coaching infrastructure and hardly any support throughout her career, and sheís here. She had injuries that prevented her from even walking properly just a few months ago, and sheís here.

And still kicking. And still winning when it really matters.

As a child, Corinne is not much interested in academic schoolwork. No, she likes sports. She starts with gymnastics (from 8 to 11) then basketball (until 16).
She is quite successful, progressing to ĎNational 2í,
the portal to the professional league.

Then she switches again, this time to "pelote basque",
or Jai Alai, an ancient racquet game popular in the
French South West and Spain. Once again, she is very successful, becoming, along with her mother, French ĎNational 2íNational Champion at the first attempt.

"I would like to have worked
with her ten
years ago."

FRED ROUALEN
Physical Coach

But her life is about to change.
In September 1983, a friend introduces her to a racquet game, "le squash". And it clicks with her: "I immediately loved squash. I was playing for hours, running everywhere like a mad woman. I just loved it!" she smiles.

"One month later I was playing in my first tournament.
I walked all over everybody, and only lost in final against the French number 3 of the time, Yvonne Ondarts. Three months later, I played her again in Biarritz, and this time I won 3/2".

But no-one recognises her potential, and she is left more or less on her own. No career plan, no goals set, no real ambitions. "Well, I didnít have a coach, my parents didnít have the financial means to help me to pay for my travel expenses on tournaments, training, etc. So, I just couldnít go onto the International Circuit like I should have, or could have."

"Her best qualities? Honesty,
fighting spirit & determination."


NATHALIE CORNET French Coach

Corinne needed someone to encourage her, to push her. "I was extremely gifted physically, so I didnít train that much. It was so easy for me, I didnít have to work that hard. I was training, yes, but I always gave 100% of myself during the tournament.

My motivation was never stronger than during tournaments. I wanted to win, to win and to win!"

After winning the National Junior in 1984 at her first and only participation, she becomes in 1986 the French number 1, a ranking sheíll keep for FIFTEEN YEARS.
The same year, she plays in her first Senior National Championships, and once again, wins it. In 1987 she loses 3/2 in the final, but then follows a long run of victories, from 1988 to 1996. In 1997, she is up 2/0 and 5/2 against the newcomer Isabelle Stoehr (now French number 1 and ranked world 13) and loses the match and Ďherí title.

"That is one of my worst memories! I should have won two more titles in a row! But it was a period where I was asking myself a lot of questions about squash, about life in general, about me. " She smiles. "And Isabelle had the support I didnít have, and she was very gifted. But I realised then that I was still hungry, that I had more left in me. And I came back with a vengeance to win "my" title back in 1999, 3/2 against Isabelle in Rennes.
That was a beautiful day"

"She's got physical abilities way above the norm."

FRED ROUALEN

Yes, at 34, the woman was still fighting at the top. But it was time for her to earn some money. "For years, I had been struggling. I was doing a bit of coaching, and I was travelling a lot to play on the tour.

But the prize money was so low that by the time I paid the expenses I had nothing left."

Once again, the official system at the time didnít offer much help. "In the old days, the French Federation had a lot of volunteers who meant well, but who werenít really efficient, they were spreading themselves too much.
Now, everybody has a precise job to do, and it runs so much better." Corinne is all praise for Bertrand
Bonnefoy, French DTN (National Technical Director).
"Bertrand Bonnefoy always believed in me. I owe him a lot, including my present job with Orange".

Yes, Bertrand moves the Earth to get the top-level athletes good jobs. And itís not easy in France, as squash is a relatively new sport, and is not recognised by the Olympic Committee.

The first time I saw her I was amazed by her physical qualities, and she was raging and fighting. She hasn't changed."

NATHALIE CORNET

It takes eighteen months, eighteen long months, but in 2000 eventually, Corinne gets a good job, working in the planning service of Orange in Toulouse. A job she likes immensely, where people are aware of her sporting obligations and ambitions. "I have never been so happy in my life than since I got that job," Corinne admits.

And obligations, she has a lot. Training for example.
She trains a minimum of 4 times a week, on court mainly, for about 90 minutes. First routines and ghosting, then a match (very few runs, thatís not her pet activity!)

"If Corinne had had the chance to go full-time I think she could have got to the top ten and maybe even higher."

ISABELLE STOEHR
Team-mate

And the tournaments. And the travelling. And the preparation for specific events such as the European Team Championship 2004 in Rennes.

"Well, that didnít start well, did it?" she barks. "For about a year I had a groin injury that got terribly bad after three months of heavy squash at the end of 2003.

"In January, I just couldnít walk. I rested a lot, but still I had to withdraw 3 days before the French Nationals in mid-February. That was probably one of the worst days
of my life."

But once again, the Survivor wasnít ready to retire gracefully. "After the huge disappointment of missing the Nationals, I decided I had to get back for the Europeans. Bertrand Bonnefoy called it "Operation: Commando".

Suddenly, Corinne is "taken in hand". In Paris, Fred Roualen, a physical coach from "la Jeunesse et les Sports", the French Sport Ministry, runs a series of tests and prepares a training program, mainly on the bicycle, to avoid strain on the joints, plus some specific court movements. "With Nathalie Cornet, the French National Coach, we designed a program to allow Corinne to realise how powerful she is and what explosive abilities she possesses," says Fred her physical trainer.

"A big thank-you for all the emotions you made us feel."

LAURENCE BOIS
Team-mate

When this Fred has finished with Corinne, itís his wife, Fred Kirsh,
the French Team Physio (yes, another FredÖ), who takes over
for stretching and recuperation exercises. Not to forget sessions with a dietician from the INSEP (French Sport Institute).

Then back home in Toulouse, she works with Laurence Vidal, another physio who introduces her to a revolutionary machine, the LPG Huber, to help her rebalance her whole body. "I was pushing more on one foot than on the other, and it created all sorts of problems. Technically first, mainly on my backhand, but it also affected my whole body. My back, my hips, everything was just out of place. Thatís what caused the injury I suffered from for the year leading up to the Europeans."

Corinne starts hitting the ball only at the end of February. In mid-March she starts working with Fred Roualen and the whole team. And against all the odds, at the end of April, she helps France to reach its best-ever place in the Womenís European Team Championships.

"That victory in the play-off was very emotional. I had been chasing it for so many years, well 20 actually! And itís a shame that Isabelle was badly injured, I believe that we could have gone in the final." she sighs. "But I came back from Hell! Itís feels good, you know. Itís a wonderful reward for the work accomplished by everybody.

"I never trained that hard in my whole life. People said that it would be impossible to come back from injury so quickly," she laughs. "Well, I guess I just love the impossibleÖ. "

"Corinne, I'm proud to have shared all those years with you, and to finish with this beautiful
third place is a wonderful reward. Thank you."

NATHALIE CORNET

Although she announced her International retirement in an emotional presentation ceremony in Rennes, Castets hasnít completely ruled out the World Team Championships in September 2004.

"Of course, I would love to be there, to help the team improve on the13th place we obtained in 2002. But I need to clear things in my head, and to find out what is my life going to be.

Iím going to go on training anyway, and who knows?"

One canít help thinking that with such potential, Corinne Castets would have had a much more successful international career had she been born a few years later.

"Of course, I canít help having a few regrets. I wish Iíd had somebody to help me train, and run, and do all the things a top athlete should do. But when I was young only the men were taken care of.

"So, yes, there was a time when I was a little bitter. Now, I have put all that behind me, but I just hope that, if there is somewhere a player with my physical potential, she will be recognised, nursed, supported, helped and guided to the top. I just hope that the same mistake wonít be made twice."
 

 

I immediately loved squash.
I was playing for hours, running everywhere like a mad woman. I just loved it!



 

My motivation was never stronger than during tournaments. I wanted to win,
to win and to win!



 

   "In the old days, the French Federation had a lot of volunteers who meant well, but who werenít really efficient, they were spreading themselves too much. Now, everybody has a precise job to do, and it runs so much better."

 
 

"Bertrand Bonnefoy always believed in me. I owe him a lot, including my present job with Orange"

   

 

"After the huge disappointment of missing the Nationals, I decided I had to get back for the Europeans.
Bertrand Bonnefoy called it "Operation: Commando".



 

People said that it would be impossible to come back from injury so quickly," she laughs. "Well, I guess I just love
the impossibleÖ. "



 

PROFILE
Born: 3rd June 1965
Club: Squash Energeia (Toulouse)
Titles: French Junior Champion 1984 (at first attempt)

French Champion 1986
(at first attempt),
1998-1996, and 1999
(11 titles in all)

European Individual Champion 1993, Lille

3 French National League titles and 2 European Club titles (with St Cloud)

WISPA titles:
Squash Aux Lices 2002
Carcassone Open 2003

National Racketball Champion 1991
Rankings: French no 1 for 15 years
(1986-2000)

Current French Ranking: 3
World Ranking: 81
                   (best 34)



 

"Well, I guess I just love the impossibleÖ."

 BERNARD PIVOT QUESTIONNAIRE

Your favourite word.

Your least favourite word.

What turns you on ?

What turns you off ?

Which sound do you like most ?

What sound or noise do you hate ?
 
Your favourite swearword ?

What profession other than yours
would you have liked to attempt?


What profession would you not like to do?
 
If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear
God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

 

Simplicity

Intellectual

Competition

Pedantry

Music

The sound of chalk on a blackboard

Bordel
(bugger)

Manager of a Sports Club


Air Hostess
(I'm afraid of flying)

Be welcome

CORINNE CASTETS  ...  the SURVIVOR

  VERSION FRAN«AISE