Is sport the mirror of our society? To this essay subject, the Olympic athletes responded with unexpected performances, broken trajectories, injuries and doubts in spades. Yes, the Tokyo Games reflect the context in which they are played. And of the tormented year that preceded them. A cocktail of uncertainties, for better or for worse.
→ ANALYSIS. Tokyo Olympics: Kevin Mayer, the money of courage in the decathlon
In several disciplines, the cards have sometimes been reshuffled. Among the explanations, we find the impact of the virus on preparation, the lack of competitions, the absence of an audience and the difficult climatic conditions for outdoor sports.
A young generation knew how to seize its chance
What marks first are the surprise victories.The coronation of the Italian Lamont Marcell Jacobs over 100 meters on Sunday 1er August is the best example. Author of a meteoric progression in a few months, he won ahead of the favorites with, as only reference, a victory over 60 meters at the European Indoor Championships in March 2021. Has he changed anything in his way to train? ” No, just the departures maybe, but it’s really the mind », Assures the native of Texas, pointing his finger at his face and evoking his found links with a father whom he has not seen for his six months.
In the pools, a young generation seized its chance. At 18, Tunisian Ahmed Hafnaoui won the 400-meter freestyle to everyone’s surprise. The 21-year-old American Robert Finke has signed a double 1,500 freestyle and 800 meters, for his first Games.
“ At the Olympics, there must be an alignment of several factors, explains Julien Issoulié, the national technical director of the French swimming federation. You have to both arrive really strong, but also be in a certain relaxation and seize the opportunity, that’s what Florent Manaudou did in 2012 (the Frenchman won the 50m freestyle final at age 21). Hafnaoui knew how to race in his corner and tried his luck. Finke was clever in the effort, controlled and then let go of the horses at the right time. “
→ ANALYSIS. Tokyo Olympics: in the basins, a French team in transition
Who says meteoric trajectories, says equally unexpected downgrades. In individual, the French judoka Teddy Riner, to whom a third golden medal was promised, was eliminated in the quarter-finals, but was able to re-mobilize by winning bronze, then gold as a team.
Physical glitches and psychological difficulties came to stand in the way of destiny carved out to win the Grail. Decathlete Kevin Mayer can attest to this. After the Rio silver, he refined his preparation down to the smallest detail. But fate sometimes plays tricks: the Frenchman blocks his back when he arrives in Japan. ” It’s been three years since this happened to me “, He said in tears in front of the cameras, Wednesday August 4th. Also eagerly awaited, the American gymnast Simone Biles was plagued by doubts and a loss of bearings in space.
” The athletes went through a complicated situation, the health context caused uncertainty and a lot of pressure. Sometimes the body expresses this overflow and cracks: this is where we go to the injury », Observes Tony Estanguet, triple Olympic champion in canoe and president of the organizing committee of Paris 2024, Wednesday August 4, day of the announcement of the package on injury of Bassa Mawem, chance of medal in climbing.
Lack of upstream competitions
In some disciplines, the lack of competitive confrontations was felt. “ In all the opposition sports, like taekwondo, karate or judo, there has not been enough confrontation to find out who is in charge. This necessarily disturbs », Analyzes Jean Fournier, president of the French Society of Sports Psychology (SFPS). In fencing, favorites like Yannick Borel or Ysaora Thibus failed before the individual quarter-finals, while a perfect outsider, Romain Cannone, 47e world, went to win sword gold. Since March 2020, the fencers had only played one competition.
The same goes for artistic swimming. Before the Games, Laura Tremble confided that she was moving in the dark: “An incalculable number of competitions have been postponed and we have not had a world ranking since 2019.” The twins Charlotte and Laura Tremble still landed an 8e place in the final.
The lack of cheering from the audience may also have unsettled some. ” I thought the fake audience noises were gonna get louder, tells the Canadian André De Grasse in the aisles of the Olympic stadium after his third place in the 100m, and before his title in the 200m on Wednesday 4 August. I tried to pump myself up. Listening to music, trying to talk to myself, but it was very hard. “
The fight against doping is on the alert
If the number of doping controls has decreased half in the world in 2020 because of the pandemic, the pace returned to normal in 2021, according to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
In Tokyo, for the first time, an agency independent of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) manages the fight against doping during the Olympic Games. The international control agency (ACI, or ITA), created in 2018, intends to carry out 5,000 controls over the duration of the Games.
Four athletes have already been suspended provisional during the Games, after a positive test, explains its general manager Benjamin Cohen to La Croix.