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Athletics in France

France has a very close relationships with athletics and hoisted the second modern Olympic Games in 1900. In fact, it was the inspiration of the Frenchman Pierre de Coubertin that resulted in the Olympic Games being recreated at Athens in 1896. The Olympic Games Committee had its base in Paris for many years.

Kevin Mayer in Javelin action

France has now hosted the games on 4 occasions, with one more summer Olympics being held in 1924 and three Winter Olympic Games in 1924,1968 and 1982. The French Athletics team always competes strongly in the international events and its sprint relay teams always prove to be tough to beat. The current crop of Men’s sprinters include the French 100 metre record holder Jimmy Vacaut. In 2015 Vicaut ran the 100m in 9.86 seconds which as well as breaking the French record, also equalled the European record. He has won a silver in the 2012 European Championships in the 100 meters and a bronze in the same event in 2016.

In the 2012 Olympic Games in London, he was part of the French 4 x 100 metre team that won the bronze medal. The team has also won silver in the World Championships in 2011, the gold in the 2010 European Championships and the silver in the 2016 European Championships. In the same relay team has been Christophe Lamaitre, who runs both the 100 metres and 200 metres. He is only one of two white men to have broken the 10 second barrier with a personal best of 9.92. In the 2010 European Championships he did the sprint, triple winning the gold in the 100 metres, the 200 metres and the relay.

Marie-Jose Perec smiling in Atlanta

In the Rio 2016 Olympic Games he won the individual bronze in the 200 metres and his other individual medals include winning a bronze in the 200 metres in the 2011 World Championships and also winning the 100 metres gold in the 2012 European Championships. France has a reputation of producing good multi event athletes, and there is no-one better than the current French Decathlon record holder Kevin Mayer. After a promising junior career, Mayer competed in decathlon in 2016 Rio Olympic Games and won the silver medal, finishing 57 points behind America’s Ashton Eaton with 8834 points.

In 2017 in the World Championships in London he did one better and won the gold with a total of 8768 points. This was, however, not as high as the national record he set in Rio, but with Eaton recently retired, it was good enough to win the competition and give France its first ever gold in the decathlon event.

France, however, had already won a gold in the heptathlon which is the ladies multi-event competition. In the 1999 World Championships the ex-Sierra Leone athlete Eunice Barber won gold in the heptathlon with a score of 6861 points, beating Britain’s Denise Lewis for the first place by 137 points. Four years later, in the same championships in Paris, she won the individual gold in the Long Jump.

The French ladies also have a fantastic history on the track. The 100 metres record holder is the retired Christine Aron with a time of 10.73 seconds, which is a European record and the 7th fastest time ever. She did this by winning the 1998 European Championships and in the same year was part of the 4 x 100 metre relay team that won the gold for France. Marie-Jose Perec ran both the 200 metres and the 400 metres for France. Perec won the gold medal in the 400 metres twice at the World Championships in 1991 and 1995. However, it was at the Olympic Games of 1996 where she reached her greatest heights after already winning the gold in the 400 metres at the 1992 Games.

In the Centennial Olympic Stadium, Atlanta, she won the gold medals in both the 200 metre and 400 metre events. She is only the second woman to have achieved the sprint double and her 400 metres winning time of 48.25 is still an Olympic record today, and the third fastest time anywhere over this distance.

France has produced many great athletes in its history.