Rowing: Claire Bové and Laura Tarantola, gold in Paris at the end of the line

“Before, we were fighting for a podium and finishing fourth or fifth. Now we are aiming for first place. » Laura Tarantola, like her teammate Claire Bové, assumes this change of status with complete serenity, when it comes to leading the tricolor delegation to the European Rowing Championships, which take place until Sunday August 14 in Munich.

A year has passed since their historic silver medal in Tokyo, the first for a French female crew since 1996. But the image remains of a mad race concluded at the photo-finish, the final verdict releasing strong emotions. “A euphoria that every time you think about it, goes up”, summarizes Claire Bové. A rare happiness, which the tandem of the lightweight double scull promises above all to relive in 2024 in Paris. Because they feel stronger, more united, and their experience is not for nothing in their determination to conquer gold.

An obstacle course

It is true that they have known, ups and downs, the two young rowers, to get there. After the Rio Games, Claire and Laura (now 24 and 28 years old) threw themselves into the next Olympiad, performing well from the start. And probably too enthusiastic. In 2018, the overtraining syndrome catches up with Claire Bové, forced to disembark for several months to recharge her batteries. Laura Tarantola could in turn be brooding, but the French Rowing Federation offers her a personal challenge: the individual world championships.

It’s new to her, but she’s giving it a try. And wins the planetary title in lightweight single sculls. This unexpected success inflates the morale of the champion. When the pair are on the attack again, in 2019, the two are overflowing with envy. The qualification in Tokyo acquired, the pandemic again comes to break the momentum. The relaunched machine is a backache at the start of 2021 which handicaps Laura this time. Two months without rowing a stone’s throw from the Games. It starts again, but the Covid falls on Claire.

“We got through all of this together, making great progress in communication, says Claire Bové. At the beginning, we were teammates without really hooked atoms. Today we are true friends. » Both have learned a lot from this extended Olympiad. “The path is not always clear, but we now know, for the two years remaining before Paris, that we will always have solutions, Judge Laura Tarantola. When we resumed last January, it was catastrophic. But we were there for each other. Our tandem goes far beyond the simple sports association. »

Pleasure above all

The two medalists took advantage of the post-Olympic period and the whirlwind of solicitations. Summary by Laura Tarantola: “We played the game thoroughly. » So as not to regret anything, and not to miss the opportunity to finally talk about their discipline – too rarely on the front of the media scene. Claire Bové even had the surprise of becoming the muse of the famous jeweler Mauboussin. The tandem was also able to land a sponsor. “The medal opens doors, but contracts do not fall from the sky, shade Claire Bove. You have to scratch at doors and persist. » Make the medal bear fruit, “I thought it would still be easier”, lets go of his teammate.

It’s said without too much frustration, but with a hint of regret for the low return on investment. Whatever. The gold, they will seek it in Paris, in 2024. How to be even better? Laura: “By having more fun, our common engine: faster gliding, the quest for the perfect gesture and technique against our rivals who rely more on power. » There is a certain aestheticism in this research. Clear : “It’s all in the details in our category, where we all stick to a pocket square. But, this time, we also have our experience. We have grown in mind and in heart. »

They also have an additional motivation. The weight categories will disappear after Paris 2024. Suffice to say that their size (less than 57 kg required) will hardly be seen in the boats. All the more reason to end on a high note.



The 2024 Paris Olympics presents the “Cultural Olympiad”

“This is a unique opportunity to show the best of France. » Tony Estanguet, president of Paris 2024, presents the next Olympic Games as an opportunity to marry the best of sport with the best of culture. For this 33rd edition, the organizers have created the “Cultural Olympiad”, a program of activities exploring the links between sport and culture from summer 2022 until September 2024.

This programming is based in particular on collaboration between artistic establishments and sports disciplines. As such, several emblematic places are associated with the famous events of the Olympic Games: the ephemeral Grand Palais hosts judo, archery takes place at the Invalides, horse riding at the Palace of Versailles, or even beach volleyball. at the foot of the Eiffel Tower.

Making sport and culture shine

The “Cultural Olympiad” explains that it is based on a demanding coherence of artistic and sporting proposals. In total, there are more than 346 projects present in more than 334 cities, including more than a hundred events for the capital alone, with a traveling puzzle game bringing together four national museums (Orsay, the Louvre, the Center Pompidou and the Musée du Quai-Branly) but also the preparation of an artistic performance by the XY company, choreographed by Rachid Ouramdane, at the Théâtre de Chaillot.

This selection also extends to other cities: Seine-Saint-Denis relies on eight cultural structures to bring sport to life internationally, such as the National Dance Center in Pantin or the New Theater in Montreuil. In Saint-Cloud, a major popular concert is announced representing the five continents of the music scene, with the support of the Rock en Seine festival.

In Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, the Philharmonie de Paris is relocating to bring together musicians from Seine-Saint-Denis and Marseille for a concert unique in France. Many free events will also be organized, particularly in less favored regions of France in terms of cultural facilities. According to the Minister of Sports, Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, this universalist and aesthetic approach to sport meets three objectives: “surprise, move and unite. »



Sport: the minimum age for competitions is being debated again

Should there be a minimum age to participate in sports competitions? The International Skating Union has decided. Meeting this Tuesday, June 7 in Thailand, the representatives of the discipline spoke out for an increase in the minimum age to 17 years (against 15 currently).

Preserve from psychological pressures

According to the federation’s medical commission, “allow underage athletes to compete” may “exposing them to burdens and risks deemed inappropriate for their age. Not only physically, but also in terms of the psychological and social development of the child. Junior athletes face multiple stressors on their path to professional sport.” Doctors consider that by waiting a few years, athletes would be better able to endure heavy training loads and “the heightened psychological pressures of senior competition”.

This discussion comes after the controversy aroused by the participation of Kamila Valieva during the last Olympic Games in Tokyo. The 15-year-old Russian favorite, at the heart of a doping case, broke down in tears after one of her performances. Frenchman Guillaume Cizeron, Olympic champion in ice dancing in Beijing, reacted by emphasizing the young age of the athlete: You see a lot of kids, they’re almost children at that age, brought to the top of the podium, then thrown out right after. They have very short careers. I don’t know how much it impacts their life afterwards. (but) I can’t imagine that being something extremely positive. »

Already in 2018, a similar proposal was on the table of the federation. It had been rejected, in particular by Russia.

The subject is also debated in gymnastics and swimming

In women’s gymnastics, the subject has already been talked about for several decades. Since 1976, when Nadia Comaneci became the first gymnast to score 10, at just 14 years old. Since then, the International Gymnastics Federation raised the minimum age requirement to 15 in 1981, then 16 in 1997. This revision of the regulations has already been violated, during the Sydney Olympics in 2000. China has thus seen deprived of the third place of the podium for having presented Dong Fangxiao, aged 14 years.

The same debate takes place in other sporting disciplines and each edition of the Olympic Games revives it. During the Rio Olympics in 2016, for example, the young swimmer Gaurika Singh was checked by the security teams, surprised by her age. At 13, she was competing as the youngest athlete at the Games.

The International Swimming Federation (Fina) does not set a minimum age for racing swimming. On the other hand, it is impossible to compete in synchronized swimming if you are under 15, or diving under 14. The Fina had however indicated that it had launched a reflection on the subject, after the participation in the Kazan Worlds in 2015 of a Bahraini swimmer aged 10!



Urban sports, between Olympic integration and preserved identity

Twenty five years. The maturity that settles, and the full form that rides. In Montpellier, the International Extreme Sports Festival (Fise) is celebrating its quarter century of existence from this Wednesday, May 25 with drums and trumpets: 600,000 spectators are expected on the banks of the Lez to applaud nearly 2,000 “riders » BMX, skateboard and scooter specialists (read below).

→ EXPLANATION. These sports disciplines which apply equal pay for men and women

Acrobatics of all kinds, music at top speed, but also high-flying performances, the Fise in all its splendor, cantor of the development of these other sports also called “alternative”, “urban”, even “action sports”. Disciplines born in the street or on other playgrounds than traditional sports, which first claim a lifestyle and the absence of executives, but which for some years have come closer to the sports movement, until the recent integration of some of them into the Olympic Games, like skateboarding and BMX in Tokyo, “breaking” soon in Paris.

A new youth for the Olympic movement

The Fise is not for nothing in this evolution. The founder of the festival, Hervé André-Benoit, is one of its main architects and one of its best advocates. “For years, Fise and these sports have grown up in almost general indifference, he says. We were the rebels, unorganized, caricatural riders for the sports authorities. We had to professionalize ourselves to become credible, especially with sponsors and the media. »

→ REPORT. Paris 2024: before the Olympics, sport as a tool for social innovation

Twenty years later, urban sports follow the same path as the sliding sports emerging at the end of the 1980s, windsurfing, surfing, snowboarding. Disciplines that advocate freedom and pleasure above all, far from competitions and marked practices. But that the Olympic movement hastened in the 1990s to bring back into its fold. “And it is an inevitable phenomenon, judge the sociologist Thomas Riffaud, who went from a shy kid at the edge of skateparks to a roller-skating champion on the professional podiums. Sports appear on the fringes, but most don’t stay there. These are movements that experience a “sportification” with the establishment of understandable rules, essential to interest the general public and go beyond the community framework. »

Keeping an alternative culture alive

It was from 2014 that international federations and the International Olympic Committee took a closer look at these twirling urban sports. “Traditional sports bodies obey a real desire for rejuvenation, observes Hervé André-Benoit. It is obvious that nearly one out of two kids today tends to practice these sports. We cannot ignore them. » For the creator of Fise, skateboarding and BMX at the Games are pathfinders. “In skateparks today, 40% of practitioners are on scooters, he continues. And parkour (a kind of gymnastics which consists of overcoming obstacles in an urban environment, Editor’s note) is exploding. These two disciplines have their place for me at the Los Angeles Games in 2028, and Brisbane in 2032, two cities that are very focused on urban sports. »

This absorption by the dominant model is however still the subject of fiery discussions within the communities concerned. The risk of losing your soul, of being diluted in the great Olympic bath? Eternal debate. “If we look at the evolution of surfing, for example, we realize that there are now two populations that no longer have anything in common: seasoned athletes and surfers who are out of control, always in search of the ultimate wave. , comments Thomas Riffaud. Urban sports are now at a pivotal stage, with riders from both trends still coexisting. The Fise also sails on this crest line, with competitions of course, but seeking to maintain a living alternative culture. »

For Hervé André-Benoit, it is indeed a matter of pushing “a regulated practice, especially within skatepark academies, because a frame is something that reassures parents, but also to preserve free practice, because it’s our DNA”. A big gap which inevitably raises the question of the calibrated spectacle, especially for the Games. “You have to know what you are giving in or not in the process of Olympic normalization, emphasizes Thomas Riffaud. Be careful on the one hand not to expose riders who may not yet be athletes, and on the other not to offer competitions that are too smooth, erasing the exuberant spectacle of our disciplines, as was rather the case in Tokyo. » In short, a question of balance. But isn’t this the prerogative of aerobatic aces?


Seven disciplines on the program

From May 25 to 29, seven disciplines are on the program of the International Festival of Extreme Sports (Fise).

Three are Olympic: BMX freestyle park and skateboarding present in Tokyo, and breaking (or breakdance) which will make their debut in 2024 in Paris.

The other four are inline skating, scootering, parkour and BMX flatland, which consists of chaining tricks on your bike without dismounting. The Fise has forged partnerships with certain international federations, such as the International Cycling Union or the International Gymnastics Federation, which enables the festival to host the BMX and parkour World Cup stages in particular.



Beijing Paralympic Games: Blues on time and stunning Ukrainians

He had opened the ball, and undertook to close it in the same way: as a virtuoso. Skier Arthur Bauchet sounded the first Marseillaise of the French Paralympic team at the very start of the Games in Beijing, Saturday March 5, by winning gold in the downhill. The 21-year-old champion executed his last score perfectly to claim the slalom title on Sunday March 13 on the Yanqing track.

→ STORY. “A beautiful story of friendship”: at the Paralympic Games in Beijing, these skiers who follow their guide

Between the two, the licensee of the Briançon ski club will also have won gold in the super-combined and bronze in the giant slalom. Perhaps the most precious metal for him, which was still missing from his collection after the four silver medals brought back from PyeongChang in 2018. Because this bronze, he went to get it “very, very, very far” as he tells it, after a terrible effort, getting on the podium after a first round where he was only ranked sixth. A feat that he paid for after the finish, having to endure a crisis of tremors for half an hour.

“A mutant with rotten powers”

The young man can in fact take everything in his path with his whirlwinds of communicative joy, his spastic paraparesis, a disease that affects the spinal cord and manifests itself in pain and tremors in the muscles of the legs, reminded him almost every time, barely finished his competitions. “I am a mutant with rotten powers”, he often jokes.

We have seen him forced to sit on a wheelchair or lean on crutches while waiting for the ceremonies. So what ? “I ask a lot of my body but I know why I’m in pain”, he lets go. With four medals in total, including three gold, he is the hero of the tricolor delegation, also designated standard bearer for the closing ceremony.

Fewer medals than in 2006 and 2018

A glory that he willingly shares with Benjamin Daviet, who also leaves with four charms around his neck: two in gold in the individual biathlon and the cross-country skiing sprint, two in silver, the last of which was acquired on Sunday March 13 with Anthony Chalençon. in the cross-country ski relay. In total, the French Paralympic team returns from Beijing with 12 medals, including 7 gold. The same number of titles as in 2006 in Turin or in 2018 in PyeongChang, and the same place in the medal table: fourth.

→ MAINTENANCE. Paralympic Games: “Let’s show that disabled athletes exist and perform”

At the foot of the podium therefore, because a few disappointments came to seize up the blue machine, which ultimately won fewer medals than in 2006 (15 in total) or 2018 (20). Marie Bochet in particular ended her phenomenal Paralympic career in real frustration. Only one silver reward, in super-G, and two really infuriating races (she takes her shoes off in the descent and falls in the slalom), far from her usual harvest (4 medals in Sochi, 4 others in PyeongChang). Marie Bochet cried a lot, but in the end retains the best: “It’s always more pleasant on the podiums but I don’t regret this emotional check-up. »

→ PORTRAIT. Beijing Paralympic Games: Marie Bochet, “the tigress has calmed down”

Ukrainians on a mission

Emotions, the Ukrainian delegation has filled its suitcases. Despite the context, an almost unexpected arrival in China after days of hardly training, the Ukrainians have done better than hold their rank. With 29 medals, they broke their record (25 in 2006 and 2014), also exploding their golden record: 11 titles (against at best 7 in Turin). “The fact that they compete here and stay focused on the competition, knowing what’s going on in their country, it’s amazing,” had greeted in the middle of the week Andrew Parsons, the president of the International Paralympic Committee.

Another great moment for Valeriy Sushkevych, the father of Ukrainian Paralympism since the end of the 1990s, confined to a wheelchair from a young age by polio, and who still chairs the Ukrainian delegation. It is he who is at the origin of the Invasport network which, in Ukraine, facilitates the practice of disabled sports designed as a tool for rehabilitation and socialization, and which constitutes a breeding ground that has been feeding the high national level for nearly twenty years, for both winter and summer sports (Ukraine was 6thand world ranking in Tokyo with 98 medals). Olympic history will remember that more than ever in Beijing resounds the Ukrainian anthem: “Ukraine is not dead yet. »


China, from nothingness to triumph

Until then, their record was starved: only one medal for Chinese Paralympic athletes since their first participation in the Games in 2002. It was in PyeongChang in 2018, they had won gold in mixed curling. In Beijing, they now largely dominate the medal table: 61, including 18 gold. A surprise, especially since with the pandemic, the Chinese had hardly participated in international competitions for two years. They were preparing out of sight, with colossal means released by the government, many coaches recruited abroad and extreme training for the organizations. The Chinese were particularly surprised in alpine skiing, like the young Zhang Mengqiu, just 20 years old today, sensation of these Games with five medals including two gold.



Beijing Paralympic Games: Hyacinthe Deleplace, from one track to another

“Come on, follow him! » This injunction of a disabled ski coach, the visually impaired skier Hyacinthe Deleplace still remembers. It was in Tignes, in 2016, during a training camp for the France team. “I had rented skis and boots, I managed to get in touch with the leaders of a French team course, I insisted so much that they ended up letting me try it. , they put me behind a guide, which I had never done”, says six years later Hyacinthe Deleplace, who has just won a bronze medal in the downhill, Saturday March 5, at the Paralympic Games in Beijing.

Seventh in 400m at the London Summer Games

In 2016, Hyacinthe Deleplace had not yet started on a competitive slope since the age of… 8 years old. He had then taken advantage of terrible weather with zero visibility, making the track invisible to all children, sighted or visually impaired like him. “I’ve always loved skiing and I was born into a family where there was no question of me staying in cotton, so I was going for it like the others, but I quickly found the limits and I headed for something else “, says the man who then left the mountains for the Lyon region, where he tried almost all the sports open to a young visually impaired person.

→ REREAD. First French medals at the Paralympic Winter Games in China

It was ultimately athletics that led him to the London Games where he ranked 7and in 400m. “Okay, I didn’t have a medal, but I was at the end of a form of excellence, and these Games will remain as one of the greatest experiences of my life, with for the first time a real square. Then I got injured. Then came the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, where I saw these crazy people launch themselves down the slope behind a guide. My childhood memories came back, I said to myself: “This thing is crazy, I want to try it”. explains the skier, far from imagining the escarpment of the path that awaited him.

“I did a little bit of everything to earn a living, salesman at Decathlon, truck driver behind a garbage truck”, says the young 32-year-old athlete, who took a long time to establish himself in the closed environment of disabled skiing. “The level is very high today and we only select athletes with real competitive potential, the life of the team requires 100% commitment and certain personal sacrifices, confirms the director of the French team, Christian Fémy, the man of the Chamonix test. It’s true that Hyacinthe had Olympic experience but, in skiing, he was far off the mark because it’s during adolescence that you learn the most in sport, and he wasn’t skiing at that time. »

Progress came slowly

The French team officials let him wade through to test his motivation, while watching him out of the corner of their eye and giving him a little helping hand when needed. Hyacinthe participates in small cups of France, unearths a guide capable of accompanying him voluntarily on the sometimes very distant competition sites. By dint of perseverance, progress comes little by little, then more and more quickly, until the first selections in the France team which ends up opening the door to him. Happily, since he won three gold medals at the Worlds in January and a bronze medal in Beijing, while waiting for better in slalom and giant in the coming days.

→ STORY. “A beautiful story of friendship”: at the Paralympic Games in Beijing, these skiers who follow their guide

The team. A new world for this boy accustomed to fending for himself. “I had to adapt to the rules and fit into the habits of the French team where we have to line up in all disciplines, slalom, giant, super-G and downhill, he continues. I had to confront the stakes, whereas what I like is going straight ahead! Several times I was shaken because I behaved dangerously, for me, and also for the staff. »

Want to drive a race car

Before tracing his route, Hyacinthe Deleplace had to forget the aerial gestures of running to adopt the aggressive and collected posture of a competitive skier. “Athletics is the matrix of all sports, you learn to put your feet, to train certain parts of the body, but the whole aspect of commitment, piloting, is different… besides, I would love to pilot one day”, confesses the young man, confident in the progress of technology which may one day abolish the borders for the visually impaired. Until driving a racing car? The challenge seems insane. But taking up ski racing at the age of 26 was not very reasonable either.


China and Ukraine lead the medal table

After four days of competition at the Paralympic Games in Beijing on Tuesday March 8, China was ahead of Ukraine in the medal table. The organizing country carried out a raid in alpine skiing, depriving nations accustomed to podiums, such as France, of their usual harvest. With three gold medals, a silver and a bronze, the French selection is in fifth place, below its objective of being among the top three. Ukraine has six Paralympic titles for 17 podiums, a record almost exclusively due to para-biathlon where the Ukrainians have won everything.



“A beautiful story of friendship”: at the Paralympic Games in Beijing, these skiers who follow their guide

The French team’s medal basket has already tinkled three times in two days, since the start of the Paralympic Games in Beijing on Saturday March 5. There was Arthur Bauchet’s gold in standing downhill, Marie Bochet’s silver in standing Super-G, and Hyacinthe Deleplace’s bronze in downhill, visually impaired category. But we must not forget a fourth, hanging around the neck of one of the 18 members of the French delegation, since Valentin Giraud-Moine, Hyacinthe Deleplace’s guide, was also rewarded.

→ READ. First French medals at the Paralympic Winter Games in China

As tradition dictates, his medal is personal to him, but it is not listed on the official table by nation. “It’s normal, it’s the athlete’s time that counts on the line, but his performance could not exist without the skill of the guide who precedes him”, explains Christian Fémy, director of the French Paralympic team, one of whose main concerns is to find recently retired champions, capable of training an athlete in their wake.

A link on and off the track

Recruited last season, Valentin Giraud-Moine was still a valid member of the France team not long ago. This talented downhiller, second in the formidable Kitzbühel (Austria) downhill in 2017, saw his progress halted by a serious fall, which kept him away from the podiums. “I had a very good guide for slalom and giant slalom, but it’s true that Valentin gives me a lot of speed”, explains Hyacinthe Deleplace. The visually impaired skier will rely on his two guides for the combined event on Tuesday March 8: Valentin Giraud-Moine will ensure the first round of the super-G, Maxime Jourdan will succeed him for the slalom.

→ ANALYSIS. Paralympic Games in Beijing: the French team begins to dream of the podium

If the arrival of Valentin Giraud-Moine is recent, Maxime Jourdan has been alongside Hyacinthe since his debut five years ago. “We met at the Grenoble university club, he was looking for someone to guide him and I said to myself: ‘Why not?’ », says this 26-year-old young man, who has a very good instructor level. “Hyacinthe started from very far away, he had skied as a child but started competing late. At 25, he had to learn everything,” continues the guide, who had to adapt his level to the rhythm of his follower’s progress.

Connected by microphones, these two do not leave each other’s ears on the slope. Hyacinthe’s handicap only allows him to distinguish a shadow in front of him. The guide must take care to avoid deviations likely to distract his athlete. “I’m skiing at 70% of my capacity, I could turn around, but I avoid it because it changes the shape of my silhouette. I guide him by voice, detailing the shape and gap of the doors and he answers me to say when he has passed, explains Maxime Jourdan. Over time, it has become much more than a guide: “We are friends, we live together more than a hundred days a year between competitions and training courses, but we make sure that we each live our lives on our side outside of skiing. »

“A great adventure”

In Nordic skiing, the technical team also made two guides, Brice Otonello and Alexandre Pouyé, available to cross-country skier and biathlete Anthony Chalençon, who is totally blind. “It is an essential precaution, because in the event of injury to a guide, the athlete cannot run”, explains Alexandre Pouyé, former founder in the French team, who sees in this collaboration a means of prolonging the high level. “It’s a more collective adventure than valid, where we are all in competition with each other. With Brice and Anthony, we live a beautiful story of friendship, we share everything, we share the tasks, the waxing, the steps, the laundry “, continues the 28-year-old athlete.

→ MAINTENANCE. “Let’s show that disabled athletes exist and perform”

On the track as on the shooting range in biathlon (read below)the role of guides is crucial for a blind athlete, who cannot refer to any visual reference. “Thanks to the loudspeaker that we attached to the belt, we tell him the steps, the rhythm, the relief, the position of the competitors, he does not speak or speaks little, he is at full speed all the time and must concentrate on his effort, it’s up to me to know where he is”,details the guide, who must turn around every two seconds to monitor progress. And possibly brake it downhill when, connected by a stick, the two skiers spin at more than 50 km/h. “It’s really a great adventure, I recommend it to everyone”, enthuses Alexandre Pouyé, who begins to dream “I might end the week with what I never managed to get valid: an Olympic medal. »


Rights and duties of guides

In alpine skiing, any error by the guide, for example an early start, stepping over or missing a door, or a fall, is eliminatory for the athlete following him. In cross-country skiing and biathlon, towing is obviously banned. Only the link by stick is authorized in the descents to slow down the follower who is sucked by his guide. In biathlon, the guide accompanies his athlete to the shooting range and accompanies his movement when he lies down to shoot, but he must let go before the latter touches the ground. Since the Paralympic Summer Games in London in 2012, the guide is considered an athlete in its own right and also receives a medal, even if the latter is not counted in the general table.



Paralympic Games in Beijing: the French team begins to dream of the podium

Although it denies it, the French delegation, 18 strong, including four guides for blind or visually impaired skiers, takes advantage of the exclusion of Russian athletes during the Beijing Paralympic Games which open this Friday, March 4. First admitted, then refused following a reversal of the Paralympic Committee after the threat of several delegations to boycott the events, the Russian athletes will weigh heavily by their absence.

→ ANALYSIS. Russian sports diplomacy in disarray

Expected in alpine skiing, snowboarding and Nordic, and knowing that it has no representative in the ice disciplines (curling and sledge hockey), the tricolor delegation expects a result slightly higher than the twenty medals obtained during the last Worlds in January in Lillehammer (Norway).

25 medals left available

The potential advantage linked to the absence of the Russians will be particularly observable in the Nordic events, cross-country skiing and biathlon, where they appeared as the main competitors of the Blues, on a par with the Norwegians and the… Ukrainians. The 25 medals obtained by the Russian delegation under a neutral flag in 2018 will be distributed among the major winter Paralympic powers, of which France is one.

→ INVESTIGATION. At the Paralympic Games, equipment in the race for medals

A few hours before the opening ceremony, the head of delegation of the French team, Jean Minier, recognized that the absence of the Russians allowed the “France to aim for one of the three places on the podium”. His subordinate Christian Fémy, director of the France team, abounded, while relativizing. “It doesn’t change much in alpine skiing, except perhaps for our skier Marie Bochet, whose supremacy was challenged by a Russian skier. On the other hand in Nordic, it is true that the French team was one of the few to be able to derail the Russian train. »

French cross-country skiers will benefit

“Basically, we are counting on the fact that we had prepared our athletes for a peak in form in Beijing rather than in Lillehammer”, continues the director of the French team, Christian Fémy, who expects better from the Nordic team back from Norway with three bronze medals in Nordic skiing and biathlon. French flag bearer Benjamin Daviet, twice tanned in Nordic skiing, and Hyacinthe Deleplace, bronze medalist in biathlon, will aim for a brighter metal.

The delegation also counts on its only two female representatives, Marie Bochet, eight times gold medalist after the last two Olympiads, Sochi 2014 and PyeongChang 2018. And snowboarder Cécile Hernandez, much less known, but still three times medalist, a twice in bronze and twice in silver, during the same competitions. “There is a lack of girls in disabled winter sports, whereas this is less the case in summer sports, hence the importance of the media coverage of these Games which will perhaps give young girls get started”, explains Marie-Amélie Le Fur, president of the French Paralympic Committee. Which is pleased that the events are broadcast by the cameras of France Televisions.


The program for Saturday 5 and Sunday 6 March

Saturday March 5. Alpine skiing, men’s and women’s downhill, 3 hours and 6:10 a.m.

Sunday March 6. Alpine skiing, super-G men and women, 3 hours and 7:30 a.m. Snowboard cross, men and women, 3 hours and 6 hours. Cross-country skiing, 18 km seated men, from 3 a.m., 12 km seated women, from 5:30 a.m.



Beijing Paralympic Games: Marie Bochet, “the tigress has calmed down”

She carried the flag of the French delegation to the Paralympic Games in PyeongChang, in 2018. This Friday, March 4, she leaves the honor to her teammate and Nordic skier Benjamin Daviet for the opening ceremony of the Beijing Paralympic Games . Not sorry to remain anonymous, very relative for an eight-time Olympic champion, French record holder for the number of gold medals. “My four Sochi medals went relatively unnoticed. Not those of PyeongChang, which caused a pleasant media frenzy, but not necessarily easy to manage”, explains the 28-year-old Savoyard girl.

→ ANALYSIS. Paralympic Games in Beijing: the French team begins to dream of the podium

A year after PyeongChang, she found herself on a completely different podium, parading among fashion models for L’Oréal. “A little dizzy, I was honored by this experience that I tried to apprehend with naturalness, she says. The mountains, my family’s values ​​help me keep my feet on the ground, at home in Arêches-Beaufort (Savoy), I remain the little Marie for everyone and that suits me. »

“I am calmer”

Last of a family of four children with a father director of the Beaufort cheese cooperative, Marie, born with an atrophied arm extended by a single finger, needed her entourage to cash in on the following two seasons, 2020 and 2021, rather disappointing. “I needed to find in my heart the reasons to continue. Competition is a difficult life, we travel all the time. I had started very young, I had the impression of having done the trick, I was lost. »

The last winter was strewn with breaks, discussions, mental work sessions with her coaches and those close to her, before she made the decision to set off again for a trip to Beijing. “I believe that the tigress that we have seen on skis for the past ten years has calmed down. I came to Beijing lighter, more serene, less burdened with the responsibility of the team’s performance. I’m trying to have fun.” explains the skier, whom this new posture has liberated in her practice.

→ MAINTENANCE. Paralympic Games: “Let’s show that disabled athletes exist and perform”

Contested by young skiers with long teeth, in particular a young Russian (who will be deprived of the Games), her unchallenged domination is no longer in order after three Grand Slams at the world championships, i.e. the five possible titles in the five disciplines. (1) in 2013, 2015 and 2019. But she came out with a more than honorable mention of four medals, including two gold, from the last Lillehammer Worlds in January. “It proves that my reflections have borne fruit”, underlines the young woman, who had to interrupt her championships following an injury that has now healed on the valid arm.

“Give Back What I Have Received”

Her atrophied arm will be equipped with a prosthesis decorated with 150 messages of encouragement inscribed or drawn by all those who have supported her since her beginnings. “There won’t be any foreign audience in Beijing, I won’t have the supporting band cheering me on, she regrets, this prosthesis will allow me to think of those who helped me grow as I was and of those who were not lucky enough to have such a small handicap as mine, for me this single little finger was a key to open lots of doors, I can even say that it was lucky. For others it is obviously different. »

Almost decided to hang up the skis after Beijing, she will stay in the middle. “It’s time to give back what I received, disabled sport is gradually coming out of the shadows, but it still needs help and that’s what I’m here for”, says the one who sees herself well at the Paralympic Games in Milan-Cortina d’Ampezzo, but in another role: that of ambassador for disabled sport, which she has already begun to exercise when she joins the Athletes’ Commission of the Committee of organization of the Paris 2024 Summer Games. Then, it will be necessary to compose without skiing, but above all without the gold of the medals which also bring in a lot… of money (€65,000 per title). “It does not intimidate me to earn a good living, I have worked a lot for that and the sporting profession is precarious, it can stop suddenly. In any case, for me, it will stop soon. »


Russian and Belarusian athletes excluded from the Paralympic Games

After authorizing Russian and Belarusian athletes on Wednesday March 2 to participate in the Beijing Games under a neutral flag, the Paralympic Committee reversed its decision on Thursday March 3. Athletes from the two countries at war with Ukraine are finally excluded. The Paralympic Committee explained that its reversal was linked to threats from certain delegations not to line up in the events if Russian athletes were also present. The French Paralympic Committee, which had regretted the first option, welcomed this reversal, even if its president Marie-Amélie Le Fur never brandished the threat of a French boycott.



Russian sports diplomacy in disarray

Taken under the fire of economic, diplomatic and military sanctions, Russia is also targeted on the sporting level. And she will probably receive the final blow in the next few hours. “The Paralympic Committee will no doubt follow the Olympic Committee and ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from participating in the Paralympic Games which begin on Friday March 4”, predicts Alain Mercier, director of the French-speaking site Francs Jeux. According to this specialist in the international sports movement, the decision should be announced on Wednesday March 2 in China, that is to say in the early morning French time.

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Football, athletics, rugby, motorsport, handball, volleyball, skating: the concert of federations is almost unanimous. All have decided to follow the historic recommendation of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to ban the Russian nation, but also its athletes, deprived of participation even under a neutral flag. The sanction is unprecedented since 1948, when Germany and Japan were deprived of the London Games.

Historic snub

Three federations are still resisting the IOC’s injunction: boxing, shooting and fencing, all run by Russians who are friends of President Putin. But the sentinels installed by the Kremlin at the heart of the sports movement seem very fragile. There will then be almost nothing left of the sports building built stone by stone by Vladimir Putin since his accession to power in 2000.

“It is a considerable setback for Russian sports diplomacy, which peaked at the 2018 World Cup, a sporting and festive success,” reacts Paul Dietschy, football historian. Banned from qualifying matches for the World Cup scheduled for the end of March, the Russian selection is de facto eliminated and deprived of the 2022 World Cup. selection ostracized before her.

Abandoned by the sports movement, Russia receives the right blowback from the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, organized opposite the Crimean peninsula that its troops had annexed to the detriment of Ukraine, in the middle of the Olympic fortnight. . Apart from the fact that the Kremlin never wanted to recognize the state doping observed in Sochi, the IOC has never forgiven this affront. “The invasion of Ukraine also comes in a context where the Committee needs to restore its image, after the contested Beijing Games, comments the historian of Olympism Patrick Clastres. According to him, ” sportwashing, the diplomacy through sport that Vladimir Putin and others have used a lot in recent years, will never work as before”.