World Triathlon Paths to Paris: Eloi Adjavon

by Ben Eastman on 27 Jun, 2024 07:40 • Español
World Triathlon Paths to Paris: Eloi Adjavon

I love it when a plan comes together. In many ways, the classic line from the A-Team applies to every triathlete set to start in Paris as each has seen their projects come to fruition. However, one athlete in particular has pulled together a plan that at times seemed to defy logic.

When Eloi Adjavon (TOG) started his path to Paris, he had barely dipped his toes into the sport of triathlon while Togo did not even have a national federation to support him. Nevertheless, this summer he will become Togo’s first ever Olympic competitor in triathlon.

“It’s pretty exciting,” said Adjavon. “It was the dream when I set off on this project five years ago. It seemed impossible or at least very far away, in the realm of dreams, and now that it’s a reality it’s exciting and it’s hard to wrap my head around.”

The idea

The first part of the plan formally started in 2019. Having enjoyed an athletic childhood – Adjavon was an all-rounder with a background mainly in swimming – his Olympic dream was initially stirred during the London Olympics.

“In 2012 I saw a Togolese swimmer who was 13 years old and she was at the Games and I was like ‘man, that could be me’.”

It would be several years until he made his first steps towards realising that incipient ambition. He completed his first triathlon in May 2019. “Then it was go.”

“I actually don’t know why I chose triathlon,” ruminated Adjavon. “Part of it was it was always a sport I had wanted to try and I had a background in swimming. Being the first Togolese triathlete to make it to the Games also gave it that extra challenge which I liked.”

“Naively I thought I could train for Tokyo and there was the extra year because of COVID.”

At the same time, the pandemic-induced delays brought race cancellations and the absence of a Togolese federation made it all but impossible for Adjavon to proceed.

“It was the first real test of the project,” he admitted. In the crunch point of the pandemic, he could either walk away from the plan or go all in. Naturally, Adjavon opted for the latter. He played a key role in creating the Togolese federation and placed all of his chips on a single bet: that he would qualify for Paris. That the Games would be in Paris also provided an extra dimension.

“Because I’m French as well as Togolese, bringing those two sides together also gave the project more sense.”

The big picture

It is here that the second aspect of Adjavon’s plan comes into view. He originally pursued film studies in Strasbourg before moving to the Netherlands to study philosophy to broaden his world view. He harbours ambitions of becoming a director and as such went on to enrol in film school. With his academic background, he has developed a set of skills that sets him apart from his sporting peers and has a project tracking his journey to Paris with a view to encourage those that might follow.

A large part of Adjavon’s motivation thus comes from inspiring others that may follow. However, as much as he had his bold plan of qualifying for Paris and documenting it, there was the simple question of how he was to make it reality.

Adjavon made his first international start at the end of 2021 at the Africa Cup in Dakhla. The next year, he got going and faced a considerable step up.

“I don’t even know if I could say I had done ten triathlons before the first international race,” he admitted. “So it was both wild and at the same time a smooth transition. At the first race I was so stressed out.”


Crunch point

Much as sailors acquire their sea legs over time, Adjavon soon found his triathlon legs. At the same time, it was not until late 2023 that his Olympic mission truly appeared possible. “In 2023 I raced four races at the beginning of the year and scored zero points so thought ‘well, this is probably dead’. That made both of the Africa Champs make or break.”

The sprint distance championships came first in Mauritius and he placed 7th. Not long after, he tackled the standard distance event in Egypt and claimed 5th place. In Egypt, Adjavon beat his rivals for a possible African New Flag slot in Paris and the points he received kept the project alive.

With his resolve redoubled, he moved to Montpellier for the final eight months of the project and managed to secure his spot in Paris through the universality pathway.

Having qualified, a new challenge confronts him. Adjavon will be stepping up to the Olympic Games without having raced at a World Cup or WTCS event before. With that in mind, Adjavon has tailored his training accordingly.

“We’re really trying to focus on swimming because that’s my weaker sport at the moment. I know this is going to be a step up so our focus is to try to get that swimming fluency a bit better in the open water to reduce the gap as much as possible and stay in the race for as long as possible.”

To the future

Over the years, South Africa has been a prominent force in African triathlon while Jawad Abdelmoula (MAR) has been flying the flag for Morocco with his appearances on WTCS and World Cup podiums. Adjavon’s Olympian status represents a new step forward in a broader picture.

“The project also stemmed from a desire to advance sports in Africa, and not specifically just triathlon. There are many sports where Africa is underrepresented and not because there’s a lack of level but rather because there’s a lack of investment, essentially, in terms of finance, time and experience.”

He pointed to the rising East African cycling scene and hopes for a similar legacy in triathlon. 

“By showing I can do this hopefully I will inspire other people that they can do it too and governing bodies to invest in finding the talents. There’s no reason why there can’t be more African athletes in the sport of triathlon.”

A country, a continent and an entire sport will therefore be watching Eloi Adjavon in Paris. The first part of his plan has carried him to the pinnacle of triathlon and now the second part could yield something even greater.

You can follow Eloi’s journey via is official Instagram account as well as World Triathlon channels.

Related Event: Paris 2024 Olympic Games
30 - 05 Aug, 2024 • event pageall results
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