The collective memories of the French
06/19/2017 (17:05 00)
The collective memories of the French

The French athletes set great store by the collective state of mind. Four of them, who will be in the running at the Stadium at the end of the week, give evidence.

Your favourite memory within the French team?
Kafetien Gomis: Annecy in 2008 and Cheboksary in 2015. I remember the atmosphere and the public in Annecy, in a fine stadium, more so than the competition itself. In Russia, there were experienced athletes, but also lots of new blood. Added to that, I improved on my personal best.
Mélina Robert-Michon: Our victory among the women throwers during the European Cup last year, with a great team. It’s the first time we’d won after several podium finishes. It is often said that France is not a country of throwers. We proved the contrary there. This year, we won again, beating the Germans, who weren’t there in 2016.
Renaud Lavillenie: The European Team Championships in 2015 in Cheboksary (Russia). I ended up feeling a bit under pressure, after fluffing my first two attempts at 5.75m and 5.80m. A good ten or so of my mates from the French Team were at the edge of the jumping pit. I felt as if I couldn’t fail. And it worked! It’s a great memory, because in addition to that, we hunted down a podium place in the team competition. Several people ended up in the steeplechase water jump. I notably tossed Jessica Cérival into the river! We all ended up heading back to the hotel soaked.

Why do you love the European Team Championships?
Lolasson Djouhan: During the discus competition, you can see exactly what Europeans are capable of. It’s a good way of gauging the temperature for the summer. This competition is the French team’s Inter-Clubs. It has the same mindset as at the DécaNation.
Renaud Lavillenie: It is not the performance that counts, but the place you finish. There’s more glory in going after a collective podium than an individual victory in this competition. Sprinters have the Relay Worlds, but for our part, in the field events, we don’t have an equivalent. That’s why I’ve been participating in the Coupe de France des Spécialités (French Cup for the speciality disciplines) for several years. It’s a shame that a competition along the same lines isn’t organised on an international level.
Kafetien Gomis: I appreciate the mutual support among fellow athletes from the morning of the competition at the hotel then in the stands. There is always at least one person from the team to cheer you on. It is this mindset, which has given the French Team its soul over recent times. You can also find it at the Worlds and the European competitions now. It is part of your baggage and you take it everywhere with you, no matter where you are in the world.

How is the collective mindset expressed in athletics?
Mélina Robert-Michon: I have always said that athletics is an individual sport practiced in team configuration. Outside the competitions, there is someone with you for the rest of the year in training, whether it’s your coach or your group. I do not adhere to the notion of the lone athlete.
Lolassonn Djouhan: The best way to express it is through the Interclubs. This is where you realise that athletics is a collective sport. If I had to introduce athletics to someone who had never done it, I’d suggest they go and see this competition. Each time I participate in it with my club, EC Orléans Cercle Jules Ferry, I hook back up with everyone. It’s a meeting that inspires me to continue athletics.

As an experienced athlete, what message can you pass on to your young teammates?
Renaud Lavillenie: During the team competitions, you quickly tend to feel afraid of the sheer scale of the event. If you fluff it, you’re not only penalising yourself but your team too. However, you mustn’t be frightened of putting yourself in a bit of a perilous position to give the best of yourself. Above all, you must avoid trying something new. The person who is on the track jumps for his or herself first and, on the back of that, the team reaps the benefits.
Kafetien Gomis: You really have to do it for the team. Once you’ve scored your first points, you no longer think about the performance, just the place.
Mélina Robert-Michon: I’d like to say have fun. If they approach sport with desire and passion, it always goes better. They must be there to have a good time. In my early days, I would have liked to have had more discussions with those athletes who were older and more experienced than me. I’m trying to do just that for the youngsters, without falling into the role of delivering them a sermon. It’s about sharing. Everyone gets something out of the discussion.