At the Tokyo Olympics, France shines as a collective

It is an unexpected equation that the presidents of the French basketball, handball and volleyball federations tried to solve on Wednesday August 4. “We wondered how we were going to do if all the teams had to come home on Monday, with a medal, laughs the president of the handball federation, Philippe Bana. Because there will be no more room on the plane! Puzzle of the privileged.

→ EDITORIAL. “Together” at the Tokyo Olympics

Four hours after this meeting, France confirmed a full historical record: French basketball players joined the men’s handball, volleyball and basketball teams, also qualifying for the last four. And thus prolonging their stay in Tokyo until the end of the Olympic Games in Tokyo, this weekend.

“The Olympics have become a Holy Grail for our handball players”

In the empty enclosure of the Yoyogi gymnasium, in the heart of the Shibuya district in Tokyo, Wednesday August 4, the Blue handball have mastered the game against the Dutch, reigning world champions (32-22). Relentless. They will face Sweden on Friday at 10 a.m. (French time).

→ ANALYSIS. Medals at the Tokyo Olympics: the French women at the rendezvous, not the men

If the stands were empty, the players got into the clothes of their own supporters, never ceasing to encourage and applaud each other from the bench and on the field. And to exult at the final whistle: “We are in semis, we are in semis! “

“The opponent is very, very good, it’s a team that is able to go to the end”, can only recognize the French coach of the Netherlands, Emmanuel Mayonnade. “Over time, the French handball clock has set to Olympic time, rejoices Philippe Bana. The Olympics have become a Holy Grail for our handball players, which is not the case in all sports. We manage to transmit this trademark. Each team is made up of three thirds: the rookies (young people), the middle class (who have already done international competitions) and the tauliers, responsible for ensuring the transmission. “

Communicative joy

Like a wink of fate, thirty kilometers further north, the tricolor basketball players were also scrapping for a place in the semi-finals. They won on the wire against Spain (67-64). They will face Japan on Friday at 1 p.m. and will be keen to do better than in Rio (4e) and in London (2e).

“Going to the hall, we saw the basketball players also leave. We said to each other: ‘go sports co’, we are all going to the semi-finals togethere“”, smiles handball player Laura Flippes, after the match. Deal. “We’re super happy for team sports. We watch them play, we try to learn from their strength! “, continues her teammate Méline Nocandy.

Among the men of “BHV” (basketball, hand, volleyball), the places in the semi-finals were already assured since Tuesday evening. The three meetings will take place on Thursday August 5th. Some were expected in the last square. The Blues of handball have mastered their course from start to finish and outclassed Bahrain in the quarterfinals (42-28). Six times world champions, the Habs are on a series of three consecutive Olympic finals: silver in Rio, gold in London and Beijing. They face Egypt at 10 a.m.

“The match of a career”

Others are coming back to life after two decades of Olympic scarcity. The French basketball players, led by captain Nicolas Batum, started their competition with a bang, with a victory against the United States in pools and defeated Italy on Tuesday August 3rd. They face Slovenia at 1 p.m. for a place in the final. “It’s the match of a career”, warned coach Vincent Collet.

→ READ. Tokyo Olympics: in search of new challenges, French coaches export their know-how

French volleyball players, who are themselves, by their own admission, “Survivors”, took their place by forceps, reaching the finals for the first time in five appearances. After a failed start to the tournament, they overthrew the two-time world champion Poland. They meet Argentina at 2 p.m. Thursday August 5 and do not plan to stop there.

The collective responds

“An alignment of the planets” for team sports, summarizes Philippe Bana. And so many chances of medals for a France behind on its previous Olympic record. Because when the individual trajectories of Teddy Riner, Mélina Robert-Michon, Renaud Lavillenie or even Alexandra Tavernier shatter, the collective responds very much.

Mixed team judo and triathlon, team fencing, women’s rugby sevens… Eight of France’s twenty-five medals were gleaned by teams. Among team sports, only football disappointed, eliminated in qualifying. “Faster, higher, stronger, together”, says the new Olympic motto. The French apply it to the letter.


The consistency of technicians

A common point in this French “Big Five” qualified in the last four? Perhaps we should look for it on the side of the experience of the coaches. Four of them have been in this post for a long time. Valérie Garnier has been working with French basketball players since 2013, Vincent Collet has been accompanying their male counterparts since 2009. In volleyball, Laurent Tillie has been officiating since 2012. In hand, Olivier Krumbholz has been coaching Les Bleues since 1998, with a hiatus from 2013 to 2016. Guillaume Gille is meanwhile arrived in 2020 to coach the men’s team. But he won two gold medals at the Olympics (2008 and 2012) as a player.


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