5 Jun 2017

France to challenge for European Athletics Team championships crown

The French team are gearing up to impress their home supporters when they stage the European Athletics Team Championships Super League in Lille Métropole from 23-25 June.

The host nation want to improve on their best result of finishing third, which they achieved at the last edition in 2015, and challenge for the title against their biennial rivals and traditional continental super-powers Great Britain, two-time winners Germany and Poland.

“Personal success is eclipsed by what the team achieves,” said French sprinter Christophe Lemaitre earlier this week.

Lemaitre has repeatedly described himself as a big fan of the European Athletics Team Championships, not least because he holds the championship best performance marks in both the 100m and 200m.

Another record-setter in the event is pole vault superstar and former European Athlete of the Year Renaud Lavillenie, whose 6.01m was the highlight of the inaugural Championships in the Portuguese city of Leiria.

Not only was it the first time Lavillenie had been over six metres but it was also a national record and still stands as a championship best performance

Team spirit is everything in this event. I remember two years ago, I had my back to the wall after misses at 5.75m and 5.80m

“A good ten of my comrades in the French team were on the edge of the runway. With them there, I felt that I could not miss… and I cleared!” recalled Lavillenie about his last-gasp clearance and winning vault of 5.85m.

European Athletics via Getty Images
European Athletics via Getty

Rio 2016 Olympic Games discus silver medallist and 2015 European Athletics Team Championships winner Mélina Robert-Michon endorsed the value of the European Athletics Team Championships, not only as a competition but also as a learning experience for many of the younger athletes involved.

“The emotions [in this competition] are multiplied tenfold as you are competing as a group and it’s also an opportunity to pass on your knowledge. In my early days, I would have liked to have more exchanges with athletes older and experienced than me.

“Consequently, without fail I now try to pass on my experience to the younger athletes on the team, but without trying to sound like a school teacher,” joked Robert-Michon, who will just be a few weeks shy of her 38th birthday when she competes in the Stadium Métropole Européenne de Lille.

Kafetien Gomis, also 37, is another veteran of the French team and the long jumper bidding to compete in his fourth edition of the Championships after finishing second in 2015.

He pointed to the fact that home advantage could be crucial for the French ambition of taking the title for the first time. “I competed in what was the last European Cup before the competition changed its format and name in 2008, when it was in Annecy. I remember in particular the atmosphere and the fans,” said the two-time European Athletics Championships medallist.

“In the triple jump contest with Philips Idowu and Colomba Fofana, it was crazy; and in the stands, there is always at least another person form the team to encourage you. In fact, the mutual support starts even earlier. We feel it from the morning of the competition at the hotel," commented Gomis.

“This event is an opportunity for us to celebrate athletics with joy and to transmit the taste of sport to younger generations," concluded French Athletics Federation President André Giraud.