While the world of athletics remains speechless ahead of American gold nugget Erriyon Knighton (4th player in the history of 200m with 19.49 in just 18 years), one of the stars is announced for the World Championships in Eugene (USA) this summer, the France team also has some wonderful promises. Mocked in recent seasons for its lack of results in major competitions, the tricolor camp can count on its 2024 generation, which will take off in early this summer 2022.
French athletics is not dead, far from it. The results have been at half-time for four years in major championships, culminating with the Olympics in Tokyo, from which only ten-athlete Kevin Mayer returned with a silver medal. Several factors may explain this: Injuries (Renaud Lavillenie at the Olympics, Kevin Mayer at the 2019 Worlds, etc.), the doping cases that destabilized the French federation, the alleged lack of oversight in Qatar, and individual failures. But even more likely, the Blues experienced a real generation gap.
Since the glorious harvest of medals in the 2010s, France have lost hiker Yohann Diniz, hurdler Dimitri Bascou, triple jumper Teddy Tamgho and have seen sprinters Christophe Lemaitre and Jimmy Vicaut, pole vaulter Renaud Lavillenie and cross-country skier grow old. Mahiedine Mekhissi. Meanwhile, the Paris 2024 generation is growing, sometimes far from the limelight, but the nuggets are ready to shine this year. With the World Championships in Eugene in July for the best, then Europe in Munich in August.
Sasha Zhoya, 110m hurdles marvel, can he already compete with the best in the world?
The French-Australian Sasha Zhoya is already a phenomenon in world athletics. “A gifted gesture, movement,” according to Romain Barras, head of the Blues. U20 world champion over 110m hurdles in 2021 in Kenya, Zhoya broke the world record for the category at the same time in 12s72, almost three tenths better than the Frenchman Wilhem Belocian’s previous record.
Since then, the little genius has not yet started competitions on senior hurdles, which is at 1m06. “You have to be careful with this transition from low obstacles to high obstacles, accept the change of obstacle”, temper Romain Barras. So Sasha Zhoya is taking good time and has not yet announced in which meeting he will show his talent. “Given the child’s character, he would like to strike a blow from his debut. I’m convinced we’re counting on his progress and if it’s in place we can see him for the Worlds. But France is a great nation of hurdlers. , and we do not bury Martinot-Lagarde, Manga, Belocian, etc. ” Zhoya, hatched by Ladji Doucouré and Dimitri Demonnière at INSEP, is already making a strong impression in training. “We want him around 13s20 this season.”
Cyrena Samba-Mayela, Jimmy Gressier: the youth already in power
Like Sasha Zhoya, Cyrena Samba-Mayela has been flying over obstacles for several years now. Great hope since her title as Vice World Champion U18 in 2017, the student linked to Teddy Tamgho disillusions among seniors. “She was afraid to remain this eternal young girl of hope,” according to Romain Barras. But that is a thing of the past, as she is now world champion in the 60 m hurdles since the World Championships in Belgrade in March last year. “Cyrena is lucky to be very well surrounded. She manages the euphoria and came back to work. She has to free herself even more to get legal times over 100m hurdles.” As a 21-year-old, she has the funds to seek Monique Ewanjé-Epée’s French record set at 12s56 and fight for a podium this summer.
The lion Jimmy Gressier has been out of his cage for a while. And we must connect him with Hugo Hay. The two founders, aged 24 and 25, “are on the same level”, Barras assures. But Jimmy Gressier tends to take a little more light in big events. Boulonnais qualified for the final of the 5000 m Olympics in Tokyo, as Hay failed very little in the qualification. Gressier is also a five-time European aspiring champion (cross, 5000m, 10000m), and also monopolized the European record of 5km on the road for several months, freshly beaten in late April by Italian Crippa. “Jimmy has the teeth to take this record back.” Barras wants to connect the two men before the summer season: “They are preparing well and have great potential. They must aim for a world final, and in Europe aim for the podium or even the title. They both have qualities as finishers. And are simply among the best in Europe. “
French champions of the world or Europe among young people and full of ambition
Erwan Konaté, Ethan Cormont, Rose Loga, Jeff Erius … A whole bunch of kids ages 18 to 22 have excelled in recent seasons in the youth categories. In 2021, Les Bleuets won 8 medals at the Junior Worlds in Nairobi and 17 medals at the European Championships U23 in Tallinn. If Sasha Zhoya has taken a lot of light by dusting the U20 world record in the 110m hurdles in Kenya, other tricolor athletes also deserve the spotlight. Exactly great friend of Zhoya, Erwan Konaté is also U20 world champion, but in the long run. He won his competition with 8m12 and can also boast of owning the European junior record indoors with 7m98. “My dream is to beat Mike Powell’s world record by becoming the first jumper to pass 9m,” he warns.
An ambitious generation like Ethan Cormont. The pole vaulter, trained by the reference Philippe D’Encausse and in the arms of Renaud Lavillenie, became European champion hope with a jump to 5m80, personal record achieved in the final. “It’s great to know how to react to D-Day,” Romain Barras said. “Ethan can also enjoy the best group emulation in the world almost with the Lavillenie brothers, Thibault Collet, another young man breaking through.” Ethan Cormont, who was eliminated in qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics for his first participation, must digest the change of status. “After my title in Tallinn and the Games, the pressure dropped again … I managed to remobilize myself this winter, but the performances did not necessarily follow and I missed the indoor worlds. I feel frustrated, I so want to qualify for the Eugene Championships and the goal is not only to qualify me. With my form I think I can be worth 5m85 or 90 in competition. But you have to do it … ”
A fine generation of launchers
Long a poor relative of French athletes, the throws got a boost thanks to the Mélina Robert-Michon trio at discus and the hammer throws Alexandra Tavernier and Quentin Bigot, all medalists in the major championships. And they created vocations. Rio Olympic runner-up Mélina Robert-Michon returns from a two-week internship with the young wave. “We can see that they are hyperinvested, serious, and it is an excellent indicator of the future,” she said. “It takes time to train a pitcher, with a later physical and technical maturity than in other disciplines. But there are good foundations. in many of them. ” First with Rose Loga, 19-year-old vice-world and European junior champion in hammer throw. “She’s clearly on track to reach the minimum in worlds, and for me it was one of the revelations of the year in 2021,” says MRM. We should also mention the hammer Yann Caussinand and Jean-Baptiste Bruxelle, the disc Amande Ngandu-Ntumba or the javelin throw Tahitian Teura Tupaia.
If Romain Barras wants a competitive French team consisting only of potential finalists for the World Championships in Eugene, Oregon in July and August, and Europe in Munich, a large part of these young French shooters will have the opportunity to rub themselves on a very high level. level among seniors. The opportunity to also discover the not so great sprinter Jeff Erius. As an 18-year-old, Strasbourgeois is a rocket that already holds the French record for 60m. He equaled Christophe Lemaitre’s 6s64 in 2009. Maybe also a future Olympic medal winner …