Recovering from freak injury, Levet promises never to jump in lake again

thomas levet
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Jumping in the lake after winning the Alstom French Open became the signature moment of Thomas Levet's year, but for the wrong reason.
PA Sport

Series: European Tour

Published: Tuesday, August 30, 2011 | 6:41 p.m.

It was ecstasy, then it was agony. Thomas Levet is never going to forget what happened to him on July 3.

Winning his home Alstom French Open was the greatest moment of his career, coming as it did 25 years after his first attempt and with his world ranking a lowly 352nd.

Even at the age of 42 the former Ryder Cup player, who four years ago feared his playing days might be ended by serious vertigo-like symptoms, was only too happy to go and jump into the lake in front of the 18th green.

It had become something of a tradition and his manager Patrice Barquez even got the assembled photographers in position so they could capture the moment the pair of them went in.

But while the newspapers got the picture, Levet got a broken leg -- and he has still to return to action.

That day may not be far away, however. Levet has entered next week's KLM Open in the Netherlands and later this week will give himself a fitness test to see if he is ready to start his comeback.

If he does, it comes with a promise. No more jumping into lakes, although he doubts he will be the last to do it.

"There will be somebody doing it again," he told Press Association Sport. "But not me -- I can't jump any more."

Levet was on such an adrenaline rush at the time that the seriousness of his injury was not immediately apparent to him. The video of the incident shows him stumbling as he tries to climb out, then limping as he walks across the green for more photos and interviews.

"It didn't hurt that much, but when I went into the shower I saw my ankle had come out and thought 'Wow'."

Even then he reckoned he might still be able to play the British Open two weeks later, but an X-ray revealed a fractured shin and he was advised to have surgery.

"The cast is off now and I'm two weeks ahead of what they told me to expect,” he said. "I've been walking for 12 days and have started chipping and putting. It's no problem, but my ankle gets a bit stiff and I don't want to force it.

"I'm going to try nine holes, then 18 two days later to see how it feels,” he added. "I've missed a lot of events because of it, but even if I don't make next week I'm going to be fresh for all the big ones coming up in October and November. Usually I'm burnt out by then."

Unless there are a number of withdrawals, the injury will also cost him a place on the Continental Europe team for next month's Vivendi Seve Trophy in Paris.

But however long the layoff proves to be, nobody can take away the fact, of course, that he achieved a lifelong dream at Le Golf National. And he does not mind how critical some people might be about what he did by means of celebration.

Colin Montgomerie called the fashion of jumping into lakes on winning "the silliest thing that players have done over the years.

"I played with Thomas Bjorn on the Saturday (the day before Levet's victory) and we talked about people diving in and jumping in,” he explained. "We said we do hope it doesn't happen because someone is going to do themselves an injury here. We're lucky it was only a leg injury.

"I've always been suspect about people diving into lakes when they don't know how deep it is, and what's in there. There could be something sharp,” he added. "It's not the way to celebrate and let's hope that's the last time that ever happens."

Montgomerie and Levet were teammates at the 2004 Ryder Cup and with qualifying for the 2011 match starting in Switzerland this week the broken leg has not dealt the Frenchman's hopes of a second cap too big a blow.

"We'll see," he added. "Making the team is always in the back of your mind when you've done it before."

And then, of course, there is the 2018 Ryder Cup, when France hosts the match for the first time at the Golf National course with which his name will now always be associated.

Levet will be 50 by then -- perhaps too old to play, but not too old to be considered a candidate for the captaincy.That is how the French fans saw it, at least, as they cheered him to a one-stroke victory over England's Mark Foster and Dane Thorbjorn Olesen.

"It was just crazy -- the people were going 'allez, allez, allez' and some of them go 'captain, captain'," he said. "I had everyone behind me basically the same as a Ryder Cup and it was the same adrenaline rush.

"I was reaching distances I've never reached before, but with experience I knew it was going to happen,” he added. "The atmosphere was great -- I felt like one of the Tour de France riders climbing a mountain."

If only he had got on a bike and ridden away into the sunset at the end rather than taken that jump.