Mame Ibra Anne: How do you approach these Tokyo Olympics?
Since the journey is so long, I don’t really look forward to it. The airport waits can be long. Between the saliva and PCR tests on the spot and the paperwork, it takes between four to five hours. Japanese people are extremely selective and meticulous about welcoming foreigners. Five Polish swimmers couldn’t attend the Games due administrative problems. That means they are strict. Despite that, there’s still excitement because the Olympic Games are still happening. This is the most important event for any athlete. We all worked hard, casually, despite the Covid delay. It’s still the Games, and I’m glad to ‘participate.
While it’s still games, it will end up behind closed doors. This is an unusual aspect.
All those who claim “no, it doesn’t matter, it’s still Games” I’m not going to call these liars but it’s still an event that does the trick. When you have a big competition when there are a lot of people, you have that extra energy left and there is noise in the stadium… There, unfortunately, it’s going to be very, very different. It is a bit sad that the Games will be without an audience or our loved ones. There are often friends that you can bring along to the stadium and enjoy this journey with you. Unfortunately, this will not be true. It will be specific, but it will be necessary for you to be strong and not to ignore it..pepsia
As far as you are concerned more particularly, you have not experienced the truly ideal preparation…?
Yes, it was difficult. I had gone two years without training and we had decided to arrange it differently. Another vaccination was required, but it arrived too late. This affected many athletes’ preparation. My first competitions were my first and I was fully vaccinated. We immediately noticed a problem. It was something we couldn’t figure out. We thought it might have been the excessive training. We thought it might have been the fact that I was a father that had an influence on me. Although I was less proficient at the training level, I found myself a bit lost in competitions. However, each competition made me stronger and I am confident that I will be able to participate in the Games. It was difficult for me to qualify at the last minute, as it is hard to optimize your preparation when you have doubts throughout the season.
What are your most memorable sporting performances from this season?
It won’t be an anthology series for me. This season will be different because it will truly be the event that will make me perform and allow me to be my best. We love this kind of competition, regardless of how casual we are. This is the confrontation. The French Championships were a crossing point that was important for all the athletes but for me, if only to have a tiny bit of public and to find this side of big pressure in “if you miss it , it’s over ”, it did me a lot of good. High competition, no matter how it prepares you, is what I enjoy. My goal is to make the Games as efficient as possible.
Anne: “The weapons that make at least one last”
What’s your Tokyo schedule for the playoffs?
We have a very generous adaptation schedule. We will need adapt to the new conditions. It will be like living in a bubble, with a hotel, training routes, hotel, stadium, and a coach. The training will unite the group and we will aim to get the series started as soon as possible. There are possible costs.
Are you already familiar with Japan?
Yes, we had done the World Relay Championships there back in 2019. Additionally, we will be returning to the Kobe base camp. At the time, Osaka and Tokyo were very beautiful, and I had a wonderful time. Although it won’t be as easy, I hope we can still enjoy some of the best parts of Japan even though it is difficult.
What are your chances of winning these Tokyo Games?
In all honesty, this season seems manageable. Except for the United States, there is no other country that emerges. There will be a match for the rest. France has been a World Finalist at three World Championships, which allows us to confirm that we will be participating in the final. It will also be open to all. The calendar system this year is very specific. This means that the final 400m is scheduled between relay laps. Some countries will be at disadvantage because an athlete who is a finalist will have five 400m legs. It can be very interesting to see how many athletes have had a great season, but not all are at the same level. The Olympics are still the Games. And for the young, the Olympic Games is a great way to launch a career, or even keep it going. Everyone has to give their best effort to ensure the best outcome.
Anne: “Sad about Christopher Naliali.”
Are you under the impression that the French relay has more power than the one of 2016?
It is stronger in terms of performances, as we were two at 45 seconds. There is more. But, when it comes to the collective side, 2016 relay was stronger because it had improved on 2014 and 2015. The relay arrived with a few injured athletes who were still up for the challenge. We were ninth fastest, so we narrowly missed making it to the final. It seems that we have the arsenal to win at least one final, and then start a new Olympiad. Although we aren’t the most anticipated relay, there isn’t a big star like Jimmy Vicaut or a Lemaitre. Even if he doesn’t go, it is still a good result. We’ll be talking more about the 4x100m relay which involves a lot longer waiting times and more money. The French 4x400m relay is the most frequent relay over the past five, six, and seven years.
We invite you to introduce us to your relay team…
Thomas Jordier was my oldest teammate. He’s had the best season with lots of lap times in 45 seconds. Gilles Biron is a bit less familiar than I am. Thomas (26) is only one-year younger than Gilles Biron, but he’s been running for a very long time. Although he was not able to fully express himself, he had a great season and won the French Championships. Muhammad Kounta is a tremendous talent in both the 400m hurdles as well as the flat 400m. Although he was not able to train on the hurdles this year due to injury, he did choose to run the flat. He also achieved his personal best and had a very successful season. Rookie Ludovic Ouceni with whom I have been training since two years has a lot of potential. This was evident in his 7th place finish at the European Under-21 Championship. This is an intriguing potential that you can forget about until Paris 2024. Christopher Naliali was the double champion of France in 2018, and 2019. He is slightly older, at 29 years old, but he has the potential for pushing this collective. He is a replacement. Because of sanitary rules, he can only train in the base camps. But he cannot be in the village. This makes me sad. It’s quite ugly for substitutes to be able to attend the Games, but it is not really their place.
Are you sure these are the best possible selections? Or could someone else have claimed a spot in this relay.
I would have liked to have seen Téo Andant, who is having a sawtooth season because of small injuries and who arrived a little strong at the end of the season, but it was already too late. Fabrisio Saidy, the European U21 Champion in 2019, has a lot potential. However, this year he was just coming back from a big injury and I believe he made up for it. He was also a bit tight physically. Although he is one of the best profiles for Paris 2024 it would have been great to send him on the adventure. It is my belief that the French 400m has the greatest potential in the future and I regret not seeing it more this season. After that, many young people have sprung up. They may have thought they were Paris 2024 candidates, but it was fair to some.
The second part of this interview is available on Friday.