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the seven French athletes to follow in Eugene

Two years before the Paris Olympics, the elite of French athletics wants to make its mark. The Worlds are being played from Friday July 15 to 24 in Eugene (Oregon) and several Tricolores could do well. After a lackluster Tokyo Games, where only Kevin Mayer returned as a medalist, the France team intends to restore to working order. Between multi-medal champions, high potentials and young shoots determined to carve out a place on the podium, franceinfo: sport reviews the workforce.

Quentin Bigot, the spring bloom

In athletics, some barriers are symbolic. Quentin Bigot, vice-world champion 2019, exploded one by throwing his hammer more than 80 meters in Forbach on May 29 (80.14 meters). In the process, the Messin followed that up with another high-flying contest by improving his personal best to 80.55 meters in Chorzow, Poland on June 5. These performances make him one of the favorites of the Eugene Worlds.

On his way, two big pieces could nevertheless thwart his plans: the Polish world champion Pawel Fajdek and his compatriot Olympic champion Wojciech Nowicki. The two men have already beaten Quentin Bigot this year during the Diamond League in Paris. A competition where the Habs had appeared more hesitant (78.12 m) and where his competition had been peppered with bubbles (when the hammer ends its course in the nets of the cage, synonymous with 0 points). The fact remains that the Frenchman knows how to transcend himself in the championship, he who had hung an unexpected 5th place in Tokyo last summer. What to tickle Gilles Dupray’s French record (82.38 meters)?

The 10 Works of Kevin Mayer

Like Ulysses, Kevin Mayer’s odyssey is a river story, interspersed with (very) beautiful battles and sacred glitches. If we resume the soap opera where it is, the Olympic vice-champion is diminished by an inflammation of the Achilles tendon which, combined with the Covid-19 contracted in January, cost him a good part of the winter season (dead end in Indoor Worlds). The Habs were still running at a slow trot at the start of the summer: deadlock on the French Elite championship, no decathlon finished this year. The world record holder has just passed a header in the Paris Diamond League, with a jump of 7m38 in length and 15m61 in weight (forfeited in the 110m hurdles because he did not work in training). Far from his better performance.

Despite this truncated year, “Keke la ember”, Herculean in Tokyo despite a loose back, does not have to fight for the minimums. Qualified through at his classification in Tokyo, the Frenchman only had to concentrate on his preparation for the Eugene Worlds. Very autonomous in his project, Kevin Mayer has also reorganized his staff, separating from his lifelong physical trainer, Jérôme Simian, who has accompanied him since 2013.

In Eugene, the world record holder will act as… challenger. The board is raised. Between the Canadian Damian Warner, the Americans Garrett Scantling and Kyle Garland or the young Ashley Moloney, all are approaching 9,000 points, the Holy Grail of the decathlon. I’ve never seen a level like this! It’s unbelievable what is happening (…) Me, I just have to not arrive injured and I see myself as a challenger to get the gold medal” explained the athlete in the columns of The Team. The Frenchman, who has just turned 30, has not passed the 9,000 point mark since 2018, in Talence, when he won the world record (9,126 points).

Rénelle Lamote, the wheel turns…

To lead this French team, the double European vice-champion of the 800 meters, Rénelle Lamote, is among the headliners. Multiple medalist in the Diamond League this season, she achieved the minimum in Rome in early June, in the wake of the Olympic champion and big favorite of these Worlds, Athing Mu (1’58”48). In Caen, the specialist in the double lap of the track also retained her national title with the canon time of 1’58”71 at the end of an explosive race.

But the course of Rénelle Lamote in the major championships is a thwarted story. In three participations in the world championships and two Olympic participations, the young woman has played only one final, even though her world ranking gave her hope of a medal.

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Cyrena Samba-Mayela, confirmation in the legs

Crowned world champion this winter, we saw her overwhelmed with emotion in Belgrade (Serbia) after her victory over 60m hurdles. Cyrena Samba-Mayela became the fourth French woman to win the world indoor title after Marie-Pierre Duros (1991), Muriel Hurtis (2003) and Eloyse Lesueur (2014).

At 21, the resident of Lille metropolis athletics enters the Eugene World Championships with his new status as leader, but with a certain lack of experience. Sn the straight line of the 100 meters hurdles, the Frenchwoman faces formidable competition while the best in the world were absent in Serbia. While having passed a milestone in half a season, the young woman is still in a learning phase, she who has only played three Diamond League meetings in her entire career. In Paris, she had set a convincing time in 12″76, taking fourth place in a race won by the Nigerian Tobi Amusan (12″41). The young woman is aiming for confirmation.

Sasha Zhoya and Just Kwaou-Mathey, the American dream

The phenomenon Sasha Zhoya, 20, could also shine. The prodigy with peroxide hair ran his 110 meter hurdles in 13”17 at the French championships in Caen, the 6th best tricolor performance of all time. What to pass a course after having experienced several physical disappointments this season (cramps, meniscus crack).

At the Eugene Worlds, the Franco-Australian knows he is being scrutinized. Junior world champion and world record holder in the category (12″72 over 0.99m hurdles, against 1.06m for seniors), Sasha Zhoya arouses curiosity and looks like an outsider. The young man could surprise as his progress is exponential, he who improved his record by three tenths in the space of a month.

He will not be the only youngster to dive into the deep end for his first worlds. At 22, Just Kwaou-Mathey will also compete in the 110m hurdles. At Charlety, the Norman broke his record (13”27) to secure a prestigious third place.

Pascal Martinot-Lagarde, the infallible

If the young guard intends to shine, Pascal Martinot-Lagarde is far from having hung up the crampons. At 30, the hurdler, 4th in Tokyo, has recovered from a right calf injury and is having an ups and downs season. Uncertain until the last minute at the Diamond League in Paris, “PML” finished his race in 13″55. Not his best time, but enough to stretch his legs and reassure himself on the tartan.

The French record holder in the 110 meter hurdles (12″95) has a a regular in sluggish seasons at the start but formidable once launched. In 2018, he contracted pubalgia, in 2019 mononucleosis, then experienced several physical glitches. However, during these same years, PML built one of the best records in French athletics. Triple indoor world vice-champion (2014, 2016, 2022), European champion in 2018 and bronze medalist at the Doha Worlds in 2019, Pascal Martinot-Lagarde knows how to sublimate himself when the time is right. His left hamstring isn’t in great shape, but you’d almost take that as a good sign…


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