How French hurdler Sasha Zhoya wants to use his hometown of Perth to prepare for Paris Olympics

Headshot of Ben Smith
Ben SmithThe West Australian
Sasha Zhoya is back home ahead of Olympic tilt.
Camera IconSasha Zhoya is back home ahead of Olympic tilt. Credit: BSR Agency/ BSR Agency

Sasha Zhoya is one of the fastest hurdlers in the world - and with the Paris Olympics on the horizon, the Frenchman has returned to his hometown of Perth to begin his preparation.

The 21 year-old is ranked 11th in the world for the 110m, and although it is the blue of France he wears on the track, Zhoya launch his 2024 campaign in his birthplace on Sunday.

WA Athletics Stadium was the venue Zhoya made a name for himself as a rising star of Australian athletics, and he will compete on his home track for the first time in five years on Sunday at the State Track and Field Championships.

Zhoya ultimately chose to race for France, the birthplace of his mother, but the John Curtin College graduate’s love of Perth shines through.

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Sasha Zhoya left, competes in the men's 110m hurdles during  the World Athletics Championships
Camera IconSasha Zhoya left, competes in the men's 110m hurdles during the World Athletics Championships Credit: Sam Barnes/ Sam Barnes

“Living most of the time in France, anytime I can touch base back in Perth, it’s almost a refresh for me, like jumping into a cold pool on a hot day,” Zhoya told The West Australian.

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Zhoya, who finished sixth in the 110m hurdles final at last year’s World Athletics Championships, said it was a bit to surreal to be taking the track in Floreat once again.

“You do the one huge competition in the year, but then every time you start the season, you always start at a lower level meet, but a lower level meet that’s home for you,” he said.

“You want to have a nice chill run to start off, you don’t want to have a big hectic race, so it’s normal, but a different feeling starting it off in Perth and in Australia and I haven’t done that in a long time.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 04: Sasha Zhoya of Western Australia competes in the U20 Mens 200m heats during the Australian Track and Field Championships at Sydney Olympic Park Athletic Centre on April 04, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)
Camera IconSasha Zhoya competes in the U20 Mens 200m heats. Credit: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

“It’s like when you come back from holiday and you finally sit back down on your couch; it’s almost the same feeling when I’m setting up in my blocks.”

With the prospect of competing at the Paris Olympics up for grabs, Zhoya has been a frequent visitor to Perth over the last few months - a deliberate tactic to ensure he was as mentally healthy and focused as possible for one of the biggest years of his career.

“I didn’t want to take any any chances and I had one season where I couldn’t come back to Perth and it was chaotic and a bit of mayhem for me,” he said.

“Everyone around me realized that I needed to come back to my hometown if I wanted to have a good season, because the preparation, as much as it is physical, it’s also extremely mental.

WA athletics star Sasha Zhoya, who has chose to represent France at Olympic level rather than Australia. Picture Jackson Flindell The West Australian
Camera IconZhoya is back in Perth. Credit: Jackson Flindell/The West Australian

“Everyone’s realised that I’ve got to come back here and I got to be in the sun, be with my mates and in my apartment and that’s the best way that I’m going to be able to succeed.”

Zhoya was the subject of an international tug-of-war as a teenager, but after coming through the “stressful” situation, was relieved there had been no hard feelings after he opted for France.

“It was an extremely tough choice and I wish I didn’t have to make that choice at a young age,” he said.

“But I feel I made the right choice because my goal is to be the best athlete that’s ever lived and if you want to be the best, you’ve got to surround yourself with people who are better than you.

“Coming back. I was nervous the people around me in Australia would be a bit angry that I’m coming back here, but it’s all been love.”

The WA State Track and Field Championships will be streamed live on Streamer this weekend.

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