Fireworks for the Blues. The France team left the European Athletics Indoor Championships on Sunday with their heads held high Kevin Mayer’s gold medals (heptathlon) and Wilhem Belocian (60 m haies) as well as Valentin Lavillenie’s money to the pole.
In total, the Tricolores leave Torun with a good record (four podiums including two victories).
Mayer ready for Tokyo
Kevin Mayer had made this Euro a dress rehearsal for the Tokyo Olympics. He fulfilled his contract perfectly with a second European title in the heptathlon after the one gleaned in Belgrade in 2017.
Admittedly, the Frenchman, winner with a total of 6392 points, will not have broken Ashton Eaton’s world record (6645 points) or his own European record (6479 points) like four years ago, but he has is full of confidence and relaunched after two consecutive failures in a major championship (Euro-2018, World-2019).
He notably conquered his apprehensions with the pole vault, one of his great specialties but which had caused him worries for many months. This fear of sting, a recurring disease among pole vaulters, is well and truly behind him and if he did not go higher than 5.20 m on Sunday, it is mainly due to back and neck pain. He also improved his personal best in the indoor shot put (16.32m).
There was a negative thing that happened to me since 2018 that I couldn’t get past. But since yesterday’s shot put, everything is back to normal. It’s a heptathlon that isn’t great, I’m not going to hide it. But I succeeded and the benchmarks I took for the Olympic Games, that’s what I had come to seek. I have been drooling with the championships since 2018 and it’s good to come back to the box. It’s a milestone for the Games and all the work I put in place with my new team is starting to pay off , he explained.
At 25 years old, the French hurdler Wilhem Belocian has finally opened his counter among the grown-ups after having shone in the youth categories. In the absence of the other two continental leaders, the Frenchman Pascal Martinot-Lagarde and the Spaniard Orlando Ortega, both injured, Belocian, arrived in Poland with the best continental time of the year (7 sec 45) and the 2nd in world level, did not miss the boat over 60 m hurdles, winning in 7 sec 42 (new personal best), 1 / 100th of the French record.
The native of the Abymes in Guadeloupe confirms a potential already glimpsed among the juniors. In 2014, he was crowned world champion of this age category over 110 m hurdles at Eugene with the key to the world record, a time that still holds (12 sec 99 on hurdles of 99 cm, instead of 1.06 m in seniors).
Third in the European Indoor Championships in 2015 then again in bronze at the Euro outdoor in 2016, he then experienced a lot of setbacks (disqualification for a false start in the series at the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016, succession of injuries, elimination in the semi-finals at the Doha Worlds in 2019) before returning to his best level in 2020.
I’m happy, he said. I came here for that and this is only the beginning. After years of hardship, I’m finally starting to perform internationally and it’s not over. This is only the first step of the season, now we will focus on the summer.
Valentin saves the honor of the Lavillenies
His big brother Renaud forfeit injury, Valentin Lavillenie worthily represented his family with a silver medal in pole vault (5.80 m), behind the untouchable Armand Duplantis (6.05). A first international podium at the age of 29 which further embellishes a winter marked by his title of champion of France, a year and a half after his final at the Doha Worlds in 2019.
It is beyond what I had dreamed of, he reacted. I worked hard to get this medal. Besides, it was difficult and that’s what I like. The France have unlocked something.