Florent, who works as a technician in Axione’s IS Operations department (PPSIM) at the Pau branch, this year became French Basque pelota champion (hard rubber ball variety). Find out more about this great athlete and the passion he has had for the sport since childhood.

How did you get into Basque pelota?

I’ve been playing the hard rubber ball variety of Basque pelota since I was 14 and I started competing at 16. But I discovered the sport even before that, when I was very young, by going to matches with my father. Rubber ball Basque pelota was created in 1930 and is played in teams of two, both indoors and outdoors, using a racket and a hard rubber ball. I love the sport as it offers a bit of everything, you can play inside and out, and it combines performance, speed and tactics. It’s accessible to everyone, can be played at any age and is attracting an increasing number of women.

How do you juggle your training sessions with your other commitments?

I’ve been working at Axione’s Pau branch for 8 years now but I manage to combine my professional life and my matches – I play four times per week on average. We train and compete locally, taking part in championships at the weekend. The sport complements my work perfectly in terms of physical and mental exercise. It’s something I’m very passionate about and it has been very important to me since I was very young. Periods without sport, due to long-term injuries for example, are harder to manage… 
My manager is very supportive, and in fact she’s familiar with the sport herself. My colleagues and I compare results occasionally.
I’m delighted to have had my efforts rewarded and to have to won the title of French pelota champion for the hard rubber ball variety (“fronton mur à gauche” – left-handed wall) on 27 January this year. It was a major goal.

What’s the next challenge?

Ideally, I plan to defend my title in the 2019 championships! Apart from that, I’d like to explore other Basque pelota disciplines like trinquet and the Argentine variation! And maybe win new regional and national titles?

So what exactly is Basque pelota?

The sport covers several traditional games that stem from “jeu de paume” – real tennis. In most specialities, the game involves hitting the ball, by volleying or following a rebound, against the main wall so that it lands in the “cancha” – court. The point continues until a team makes an error or can’t hit the ball before its second rebound.  
It is played primarily in south-west France – the Basque Country, the Landes department, in Béarn and Bigorre – as well as in Spain and South America. There are 7 main specialities of Basque pelota: rebot (where the bat is in the form of short curved basket), pasaka (played face to face with a net midfield), hand pelota (played barehanded), xare (soft racket in the form of a net), chistera (bat in the form of long curved basket), paleta cuero (played with a leather ball), paleta goma (played with a hard or hollow rubber ball in many North, Central and South American countries).