Shana Grebo, athletics: “it left me starry-eyed!”

Tuesday, 5 december 2023

An interview with Shana Grebo, a track & field champion (200 m, 400m and 400m hurdles) supported by Natixis Corporate & Investment Banking, as she prepares for the Olympic Games Paris 2024.

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Enrolled in a university course in the USA that combines high-level sport and studies in Business Administration & Sociology (University of Oregon in Eugene), Shana tells us about her passion for her sport, and the keys to her success which, as she puts it: “all depends on your supporting team!” 

How did you discover athletics? 

It was in a local 1.5km race thanks to a neighbor who urged my parents to sign me up. I was 10 years old at the time and the prize was an athletics license. I won the race and, after trying horse-riding, judo, swimming, basketball, dancing and so on, I’d finally found my sport! What attracted me was the game/reward aspect of the race! 

The first time I was selected for the French team was in 2017. I was 16 and still a member of  the Haute Bretagne Athletics club. I wanted to go further and discover everything that sport could bring me. In 2018, I won a gold medal at the French Athletics Championships in the Junior 400m hurdles event. In 2019, I just missed winning a place on the podium at the European Junior Championships in the 400m hurdles. In 2020, “the year of Covid,” I came 3rd at the French elite championships and 1st among juniors in my category. In 2021, I won both my 1st podium at the French elite championships with gold in the 400m hurdles and my 1st selection for the French senior team. Another great year was 2022! I broke all my records in all my disciplines: I won the elite French championships in the 200m event and finished 2nd in the 400m. At the World Championships, I finished 5th in the 4x400m relay and 6th in the European Championships in the 200m event. I still haven’t won a gold medal in the 400m… Stay tuned for future achievements!  

You’re an athlete and student in the United States. Could you describe your everyday life? 

Since 2021, I’ve been enrolled in a university course that combines both sport and academic studies – Business Administration & Sociology – at the University of Eugene (Oregon) in the United States. My schedule is flexible and everything is grouped together in one place. I live a 5-minute bike ride from the campus and train in the on-campus stadium. It’s much easier at this university with its stadium used both as a training ground for our university team and as a venue for larger sporting events. 

At a meeting in Arkansas, USA, in 2023, I failed by 6 hundredths of a second to reach the minimum requirements for the European Championships, so I didn’t take part. Then, on the outdoor track, in mid-June, I was slowed down by a hamstring injury, which made things difficult both physically and mentally. So I made a major decision: I would stop my season in order to make a full recovery. It’s vital to take a break if you don’t want to do yourself an even more serious injury… 

How is your recovery going? 

My whole life is organized around sport. Everything in my calendar is focused on getting me ready! We’ve known since 2015 that France will be hosting the Olympic & Paralympic Games in 2024, and I’ve been thinking about it from the start – like a dream, admittedly – but I’m still preparing myself for it! The main objective, of course, is to get results but what really drives me are the incredible feelings it inspires, the passion that drives me, the feeling of self-fulfillment, and also the fact of sharing with others… It’s something natural for me. It’s about training and having fun at the same time. There’s the fact of striving for victory, of course, but you’re looking for something much bigger than a mere result. What counts is the joy you feel and the surprise of victory, which can be overwhelming at times. 

What’s the impact of such an intense training regimen?  

To keep going, you need a will of iron and a rigorous lifestyle. You have to schedule everything into the day, even time for a little nap, and no partying! Sleep and recuperation are essential for an efficient recovery. We enjoy the support of about twenty training partners on the campus, a big team: the sprint and hurdles coach and his assistant, the fitness trainer and the yoga teacher, both dedicated to optimizing our recovery and massages to recharge our batteries, the physiotherapist and his assistants, two doctors and three masseurs! 

The main advantage of having a structure like this designed to meet all your needs in the same area is that you don’t waste your energy. I’m living in a small town, half the size of Rennes in Brittany, and everything seems to be tailor-made for our needs. 

What role do dreams and aspirations play in your life? And how do you handle moments of doubt? 

Dreams are created when you see other people make their dreams come true: seeing athletes mount the highest steps of the podium has always made me dream. Seeing their achievements left me starry-eyed and made me think: “Why not me?” 

Doubt is often linked to failure and is part of life. Even if I have a good track record, I’ve doubted myself a lot. The important thing is the people around you who help you overcome your frustrations. Sometimes there’s no explanation, you just can’t put your doubt behind you, even if you repeat the same thing over and over again. The important thing is to create a healthy environment and tell yourself that it’s not the end of the world. Sometimes, it takes time to reach certain decisions but once you’ve made them, they define the rest of your life. In fact, I have absolutely no regrets about putting my season on pause, even if I was worried about what other people would think about me, especially my partners, which is why it’s so important to create a positive and caring environment. 

What does the support of Natixis Corporate & Investment Banking mean to you in terms of your sport, your personal relations and material wellbeing?  

From the moment we first met, what stood out was the personal relations side of things. I felt both surprised and happy, because the support goes far beyond mere financial backing. It’s always a very moving experience because there’s a lot of sharing and rich, dynamic mutual exchanges, with teams in different fields – finance, communications – both in France and in the United States. I feel no pressure from my sponsor, only encouragement and motivation. 

What do you think is your principal quality? 

I’d say that I’m a go-getter, tenacious and determined. 

And your greatest weakness?  

I’m rather uncompromising. It’s hard for me to stop, both physically and mentally. I have so many examples of small sacrifices that cost me dear but, deep down, I remain committed to my choices. 

What’s your dream for the Olympic Games Paris 2024? 

I’d like to be the best version of myself.  

Do you have a mantra?  

“Accept the Journey” whatever the destination may be. For me, the journey is the Olympic Games Paris 2024, no matter how difficult the journey may be, how long, or how many stops along the way. What matters is that there’s a start and a point of arrival.