He kept his promise by not complaining about the Belgian winter. Jonathan Borlée is not the type to be cold in the eyes. Between peaks at 6000 meters, parachute jump, adrenaline at the wheel and especially two young children, he has no time to be bored.
Jonathan, have your adventures in the mountains, Kilimanjaro and Everest Base Camp made you stronger?
“I already had a lot of character with the 400 meters (laughs). Now, these are sensations that we do not have every day. They push us to surpass ourselves, to stay with the group. And as you know, the end was a bit complicated for me (Editor’s note: sick, he had to be taken to hospital in Kathmandu). I was pushed to my limits. ”
You were in the rough throughout the trek in the Himalayas and yet you went to the top …
“I hate to give up. The feeling is so bad I hate it. I’ve had some horrible 400m races before where I could have stopped after 250m but I would rather finish with lead legs rather than have that unbearable feeling of giving up. And sometimes you have to know how to put the pain aside. ”
Are you the type to go so far as to explode a muscle?
“Not in a less important race but if I’m at the Olympics and I feel a tension, I continue hoping that it passes.”
You were a bit of an adventurer in this group. You had climbed the kilimanjaro …
“A summit at almost 6,000 meters but it’s a round trip. We have a headache but we push to get there then we go back down and we forget everything. To go to the base camp, we stayed at more than 3,000 meters (Editor’s note: 4,000 in fact) for several days. I had headaches every night and every night. It was the difference with the Kilimanjaro. The sensation was unpleasant and caused a great lack of sleep which cost me dearly. I slept two or three hours a night. We also went to Iceland. There was no hotel. The toilet was snow. We only ate freeze-dried food. I lived five incredible days but also quite difficult. We had two storms, difficult circumstances in which we are not used to evolving. ”
Are you a lover of the mountains or the great outdoors?
“Of nature in general. People who love the mountains can stay there for weeks or months without getting bored. I’m too impatient for this. I love hiking, nature, but there are people more in love with it all than me. ”
How do you explain this call of nature when you live in Brussels?
“I still spent several years in the Ardennes. I love nature but also challenges. Kilimanjaro was also a challenge. Without training, I have already left for 140 km by bike with some friends. I regretted it because it takes a minimum of training. I love to challenge myself. The Olympics are also a team challenge in themselves. ”
You are also a reader of adventure books …
“There I read the book by Nims Dai, the Nepalese who climbed the 14 peaks over 8,000 meters in seven months and K2 in winter. It’s inspiring. I love to read this kind of books. Another marked me. I don’t remember the author anymore but he went to extreme places without assistance or GPS. He was in the Amazon, in Patagonia, in the hottest desert in the world. He wanted to see how his body adjusted to these extremes. It’s impressive.”
A top athlete also flirts with certain extremes. Can you compare them?
“When I run a 400m, I am in control of my body and what is going on around me. They put themselves in extreme conditions where they are not going to control the weather, the conditions. It’s a feeling I understand but I don’t know if I can. ”
Your other passion is motor racing. What aspect of this sport appeals to you?
“Adrenaline, clearly. Speed. I fell in love with motorsport while watching the F1 Grand Prix with Michael Schumacher. I have a vague memory of Senna’s death too. Since then I have always loved motorsport. ”
Do you plan to drive more after your career?
“Why not challenge yourself and do something like the 25 Hours Fun Cup. We have already thought about it with Kevin. ”
And go skiing again?
“I miss that too. The mountains, the speed, the adrenaline. ”
Are there other crazy projects on your schedule?
“No, but I did a parachute jump a few months ago. It was on my ‘bucket-list’. I was stressed out like crazy but it’s something I wanted to do. The very morning of the jump, my partner warned me. I said ‘oh shit’ (laughs). Finally, it was crazy. I wanted to jump right after. The stress and the waiting reminded me a little of the 400 meters. But when I was on the plane and jumped, I thought I was being sucked in. ”
You’ve been playing video games since you were little. What does it bring you?
“It’s a letdown. I think about something else with my brothers or friends. ”
Do you still have time to play with your two children?
“It’s getting difficult but I try to find time for myself and play with them.”
How do you manage the status of dad on a daily basis?
“It’s organization. Everything changed. Before, I trained, I rested, I ate and then I didn’t think much. Here, you must always have children in mind. Fortunately, my partner realizes that I need a lot of energy. I try to do a lot of things to help her too. ”
Have you ever gotten to training on the kneecaps?
“Maybe that’s a flaw, but even after a horrible night, I let go and give it my all. Sometimes I should take it a little bit easier. I must have struggled to give 90%. ”
How do you manage the long months away from your family?
“I always have. Even before my children. I sometimes went two months without seeing my partner. It’s a bit more complicated with children. Already because I do not see them and also because I know that my partner is alone with them and that it is not always easy. ”
What is it that still keeps you chasing after nearly 15 years of career?
“It’s always the same: new challenges and goals. Have things in your sights. When the Olympics were postponed, I lost a second in training. However, I put the same intensity. I’m still on my toes. A lot of people say that we are soon finished and yet we continue to perform. ”
Do you often hear this reflection?
“I must have been 27 or 28 one of the first times I heard it. These are people who talk but it doesn’t reach me much. I am eternally dissatisfied. When I run well, I forget about it and move on. It may be a fault, but I don’t consider myself to be an accomplished athlete. I don’t stress about not having achieved all of my goals by the time I retire. I have always done things to the maximum. I will have no regrets. ”
Would you have thought you were participating in four Olympics?
“Few have. Even less over 400 meters. Be careful, I’m not in Tokyo yet, eh. But again, it’s a challenge and it boosts me. ”
Do you remember Beijing in 2008?
“These are exceptional memories. I didn’t sleep the two nights before my series. I was as stressed as possible. I was so excited with the stress that Kevin asked the doctor what we could take to sleep. He gave her something and Kevin gave me a half. It had to be enough. I couldn’t sleep at 2:30 am and took the other half. The series was at 9 o’clock so we got up super early to warm up, have lunch, etc. I told Kevin when I got up at 5 o’clock that I had taken the other half. He didn’t dare tell me that the doctor had told him not to take everything. He just thought ‘fuck the asshole’. He felt awful. Finally, we qualified for the semi-finals. He told me that I scared him. He did well not to tell me. ”
How did you experience your first time in the Olympic Village?
“I was very focused and only left the village once to go see the American basketball team. The village is very noisy. I remember the swimmers were done and they were going to party. The first time is special but you get used to it. ”
And how were the post-Olympics releases?
“Beijing was a night to remember. London was great too. We release the pressure and we all enjoy together. ”