Sailing star Mazella chasing home Olympic dream

Axel Mazella in action at the 2023 Allianz Regatta
Axel Mazella in action at the 2023 Allianz Regatta

The chance to compete at a home Olympics is not offered to every elite athlete, even less so when competition is taking place an hour from where you grew up.

So while Axel Mazella is doing everything within his power not to think about Paris 2024, the Frenchman admits it is not easy.

Leading the way in the Formula Kite Men at the Allianz Regatta through two days of competition, Mazella is one of a strong French contingent looking to nab the lone spot on the host team in Marseille next year.

Having grown up in Hyères, just an hour up the coast, Mazella has been kitesurfing since 2010, picking up foiling three years later.

Now that kitefoiling has been added to the Olympic programme for Paris, the pressure has ramped up – not least because of the sheer number of people fighting for one spot.

Mazella explained: “It’s super exciting to be part of this story because it’s a new Olympic class. In our country, we have a really strong French team in the men’s team and in the women’s.

“In the top ten men, we have four Frenchies and in the women, it’s three or four as well. So it’s pretty intense and we know we have to be first to qualify for the Olympics. It’s pretty tough and pretty exciting. Because we are all together and super tight, we have to push as hard as possible so we are all growing together.

“Honestly, I’m not thinking about the Olympics, even though it’s in France and I know all my family will be there if I qualify. That would be a lot of pressure but it’s one for the future.”

Mazella singles out Britain’s Connor Bainbridge, world champion Toni Vodisek from Slovenia and Singapore’s rising star Maximilian Maeder as three of the toughest competitors.

But crucially, it is within the French team that he may face the stiffest competition. His close friend, Théo de Ramecourt, was world champion in 2021, just ahead of Mazella in silver, while Benoit Gomez leads the world rankings and Maxime Nocher is a three-time world champion.

It is little surprise therefore that Mazella is not focusing too much on Olympic qualification, instead simply aiming to build on a mentality that has helped him overcome the odds time and again.

He explained: “I’m maybe not the fastest on the water, I don’t have the best starts either but I’m always trying to figure out the problems and find a solution. I want to work with my mindset. Our event is a long-term one, it’s five days, sometimes six.

“So you have to be really strong in your mind and be positive all the time. Even if you crash or make mistakes, you have to go forwards and try to be as fast as possible, while staying strong mentally.

“Back in the day, our class was not that competitive. If you won the first race of the event, you probably knew you would win the event more or less. Now we are like a proper sailing sport.

“You can get a win and then a top ten, it really depends on the performance and the wind and you have to be as consistent as possible. Now, it is pretty hard and a really, really strong fleet.”