Our Technical Partner's Interview
I'm Julien MAIO, 29 years old, and I'm a professional badminton player.
I come from Strasbourg but I'm not able to speak or understand a word in German, even though Germany is only 10 minutes away from where I used to live for 21 years. I'm also quite passionate about making Neapolitan pizza at home for my friends and family, and I love Italian food (by the way, I can be quite tough when judging good Italian food.)
I started playing badminton when I was 5 years old with my parents and my older brother in Strasbourg. Initially, it was only on the weekends, but then I asked to join sessions with a coach and the youth group. Since then, I have never stopped playing badminton (and I also broke many rackets during that time).
I have won the youth nationals nine times (from U13 to U19), including 1 win in MXD, 4 wins in MD, and 4 wins in Singles. Yes, I could win in Singles, but that was a long time ago (between 2007 and 2013). I have also won the MD gold medal at the nationals four times (2016, 2017, 2018, 2023). In international tournaments, I won a Bronze medal in U19 MD European Championship in 2013. In 2021, I won a Silver medal at the European team events championship with the French team. In 2023, I won a Gold medal at the Portugal International in MD.
Because we are both working towards the same goal of improving with Decathlon and showing that it can be used by professional players, not just amateurs. Moreover, being part of the project and providing feedback to help develop better products is very exciting, and I feel useful in that regard as well.
We were impacted by water contamination in our training center, which caused symptoms like nausea, fever, stomach cramps, and soreness. So our energy wasn't at its best. Fortunately, we were able to play the first match and took some medication to improve. In the second match, we won in two close games against a good French pair, which took us to the semi-finals against Labar and Corvee. They had a higher ranking than us, but in terms of skill level, we didn't feel weaker than them. They managed to win the first game 22/20 after being down 20/16, so we could have lost the match in two games under those conditions. However, we didn't want to give up and remained calm to come back and win it in three games. This victory was a huge relief for us and also showed that we could win in a challenging scenario. Another emotional aspect was having Léa Palermo on the coaching chair during this match, just a few weeks after her ACL injury. It felt like we won the match for her as well.
In the final, I felt like most people were predicting that the Popov brothers would win the title once again. Before the match, William and I had a quick discussion about tactics, and we said to each other, "If we maintain discipline in our tactics, we can win this final and secure our first title together." After winning the final in two games, we also showed the French federation that we are competitive in men's doubles.
During the interview, I mentioned that this win was a significant accomplishment for us, especially for William, as it was his first gold at the national level. I dedicated this victory to Lea, who didn't have the opportunity to play this year.
Léa Palermo, 29 years old, I am from Saint-Ismier (a little city next to Grenoble) and I started playing badminton at the age of 8 in GUC (Grenoble Université Club). I have been playing for Cholet (BACH) since 2020 and I train at INSEP for 10 years now. I'm a double player (women and mixed) and I hate losing (no matter the game) !!! I'm also a big fan of hip hop and Afro dance but can't really dance properly.
I started playing badminton thanks to my dad who was playing in Grenoble (leisure level). As I had to stop doing gymnastics due to serious back problems at the age of 8, I tried badminton because I truly loved the game, the speed and the crazy amount of technical shots that I could create with my racket !
I am French champion in 2016 and 2019 in ladies double, European silver medalist in the team event in 2021 and got bronze in 2020. I'm also a semi-finalist at Denmark Open 750 in 2020 in mixed doubles and in 2019, I reached 27th spot in the world ranking in ladies doubles and won the Mediterranean Games in 2018.
I chose Decathlon for its human adventure and constant wish to target expertise and performance towards our sport. Beginning my journey with Decathlon, I got the real feeling that I was about to work with passionate people, who'll always look for performance regarding our discussions and equipment.
My journey is not over yet and from my last experiences, my only goal is to listen to what my body is saying, go through my emotions and redefine the player I want to be.
Since October 2021 when I got injured in my left knee, it's no longer about performing high or getting the highest title. It is about enjoying every second of my life, on and off court, considering that each battle is a gift and an opportunity to get stronger and wiser (Damn!! Am I ????)