The medal target had been set at 35, a contract more than fulfilled for French Paralympic athletes. Sunday, September 5, for the closing of the Tokyo Games, badminton player Lucas Mazur added gold then, associated with Faustine Noël in mixed doubles, silver to the collection of the Blues, who left Japan weighted with 54 charms including 11 in gold in their luggage.
Certainly, in terms of probabilities, it is easier for a Paralympic athlete to win gold when 4,400 athletes are vying for 539 titles against 339 for 11,000 Olympic athletes. The performance of the Blues is nonetheless exceptional: the France team regains its status in Tokyo in London in 2012 (45 medals, 8 titles) or Beijing four years earlier (52 medals, 12 titles), while sports competition has since increased. Above all, it erases the bad memory of Rio in 2016 (only 28 medals), the worst result in the history of the France team.
In Japan, not a day goes without its harvest of medals. Among the blue surprises, the uninhibited talent of Ugo Didier in swimming (silver and bronze) or of Alexandre Léauté in track cycling (gold and silver) and on the road (two in bronze), like a team efficient cyclist, purveyor of half of France’s Paralympic titles.
We also salute the nice surprise of Charles-Antoine Kouakou over 400 m in adapted sport (mentally retarded), or even the “double double” of Fabien Lamirault in table paratennis (titled in Rio and Tokyo, in doubles and in individual) and the confirmation at the top of the experienced pair Stéphane Houdet and Nicolas Peifer in wheelchair tennis (gold in Tokyo and Rio).
“Difficult to do haute couture”
Sandrine Martinet, flag-bearer of the French delegation with Houdet, takes her bow after five Paralympic participations on a new parajudo medal, silver, which is added to gold in Rio and bronze in Beijing ( 2008) and Athens (2004). Like Marie-Amélie Le Fur, in silver in the long jump – the ninth medal of a very rich Olympic record – who will be able to devote herself full time to her duties as President of the French Paralympic and Sports Committee (CPSF).
This harvest also augurs well for the best in three years, in Paris. Jean Minier, the chef de mission of the Blues at the Tokyo Paralympic Games, has revised the objective upwards and is now aiming for around sixty medals and a place in the top 10 of the nations in 2024. “It will take a lot more gold medals to be present in the ranking of nations because everything is played on gold”, recognized Sunday the sports director of the CPSF.
The good results obtained in Tokyo should not however obscure the ills from which the French Paralympic movement suffers: problem of social acceptability and recognition which pushes some athletes to hide their handicap and to compete among able-bodied people, lack of means and professionalization of athletes… Even if on these last two points, the delay is fading compared to international competition.
For at the same time, other nations are also advancing. And rather quickly. Despite its 54 medals, France is ranked only 14e on the medal board (12e in Rio), far behind the untouchable teams of China or Great Britain, but also at a respectable distance from the Netherlands and Italy, two other European neighbors. Jean Minier explains: the Dutch focused the bulk of their efforts on cycling and swimming, when the French delegation was represented in 19 of the 22 sports competing in Tokyo. “It becomes more difficult to do haute couture when the talents are ‘dispersed’, but France can be proud of its multisport model. “
Paris 2024, an accelerator of resources
The Paris Games in 2024 must be an accelerator of resources, hope French Paralympic officials and athletes. The message seems to have been heard by the sports ministry which says that the means allocated to Paralympic sports have been “Doubled in two years”. In addition, since the end of 2016, 13 French federations – 16 since 2020 – have, as in the British model, received the delegation to organize the practice of athletes with physical and sensory disabilities. “The integration of parasports into able-bodied federations pushes us to give the best of ourselves. We train every day with the best French judokas », testifies Sandrine Martinet.
The English example is not however the panacea, according to Jean Minier, who takes as proof the results obtained in Tokyo by the French Handisport Federation on which cycling and table tennis depend: seven gold medals out of the eleven titles. bruises. “We must continue on this French” mosaic “model, which offers different alternatives”, defends the head of the tricolor Paralympic delegation.
“We must also optimize all performance parameters and continue to train and professionalize the sports supervision of people with disabilities”, adds Jean Minier, who believes it possible to discover tomorrow in the clubs a champion or a Paralympic champion who does not know for Paris 2024. After all, the Amiens Erika Sauzeau, bronze medalist in Tokyo, has taken to the rowing less than two years ago.
Our selection of articles on the Tokyo 2021 Paralympic Games
Find all our content on the Tokyo Paralympic Games, from August 24 to September 5: