Paris 2024 Olympic Games: 20 years after Laura Flessel's last medals, the French swordsmen return to the top

Paris 2024 Olympic Games: 20 years after Laura Flessel's last medals, the French swordsmen return to the top

Ici en stage à Lunel, une équipe de France très ambitieuse dans le sillage de la championne du monde Marie-Florence Candassamy et de Coraline Vitalis (3e et 4e en partant de la gauche). Midi Libre – SYLVIE CAMBON

The French women’s epee team came to Lunel to prepare for the European Championships in Basel and the Paris Olympics. The opportunity to discover a new wave already full of titles and capable of following in the footsteps of Laura Flessel.

A "black guard" of tricolor fencing adorned with medals at the 2004 Athens Olympics. The images of Laura Flessel and Maureen Nissima, the last ones engraved in the memory of the tricolor women's epee, are suddenly superimposed on those of ;Coraline Vitalis, Marie-Florence Candassamy and Auriane Mallo-Breton, a talented trio who came to prepare in Lunel, with the French team, for their Parisian challenge.

Between the prize list lines and these waves of joy, the letters of nobility of a sport which embodies the continuity and success of a certain French know-how at the Games . "Salvation, respect for the master at arms, this is what makes our strength and our identity"proclaims Hervé Faget, manager of the French team. Laura Flessel's last coach, he embodies this link, this role of passer who has helped to forge the current generation, promising enough to make us forget the long hibernation of women's epee which had only qualified Coraline Vitalis in 2021 in Tokyo.

“We have structured our coaching”

“There was a gap of 4-5 years but we are happy to see that women's epee is coming back, including among young people with”a world champion junior", rejoices Hervé Faget, who also sees the fruits of a reassessment: "We maintain our rank through teamwork, know-how and also by having structured the supervision with physical and mental trainers, dieticians…"

A renewal embodied by a team where all the girls have already climbed onto an international podium, including the substitute Alexandra Louis-Marie, 2023 European champion.

Marie-Florence Candassamy, world champion 2023

To succeed Laura Flessel, titled in Atlanta in 1996 and silver medalist in Athens in 2004, eyes will first turn to Marie-Florence Candassamy. Crowned individual world champion in 2023, the slender Parisian embodies at 33 the virtues of patience and work, she who admits to having done "time and hard work my  best allies to achieve my goals."

In a twist of fate, she also joined the art and design school created by Laura Flessel with whom she shares Guadeloupean roots. Also a three-time European team champion (2018, 2022, 2023), Candassamy has, however, been disrupted by glitches this season, notably three months of long covid. She also appears reserved when assuming the rank of favorite and taking part in the game of questions which she hardly seems to appreciate: "On We all have a track record, a favorite label, we all have something. These Olympics at home are exciting. For sure, winning at home, in the City of Lights, would bring me something. I can't wait to experience this."

"Team gold, we deserve it"

In a more direct and lively style, Coraline Vitalis has other assets to highlight. The Guadeloupean, who passed through Insep and the Rodez club, with six years at Sciences Po in parallel, wants to use her premature failure at the Tokyo Olympics (the only Frenchwoman in the running) to confirm his world title among juniors (2015) and European title among seniors (2019).

"In Tokyo, I failed in the qualifying race and arrived mentally exhausted. The Games at home only happen every 100 years, she says with a big smile. Participating in them is already a dream. We have a strong group, four girls who have already been on the podium. The objective is to perform and leave with medals. Team gold, we deserve it, we work hard for it."

Test at the Euro, in Switzerland, from June 18

"We must not forget Auriane Mallo-Breton, who scored 1 and 3 in the last two competitions", adds Hervé Faget who confirms the team ambitions: "We have a team that can break everything if all three are in good shape on the same day."< /em>

The four musketeers will test themselves at the European Championships in Basel from June 18 to 23. "A simple step in the preparation for Paris" tempers Hervé Faget. But Candassamy assures him: "Any competition is good to have." Shoot to hit, always…hellip;

Paris 2024 Olympic Games: 20 years after Laura Flessel&#39;s last medals, the French swordsmen return to the top

World champion Marie-Florence Candassamy took part in the autograph game after sharing a session with the young fencers from Lunel. Midi Libre – Richard Gougis

An internship in Lunel to bond and share

Having the pleasure of hosting a French team for a week preparing for the Olympics is an exciting game where everyone wins. In the Alain Le Hetet room, one of the few in the region so well equipped with fencing arenas, the French swordsmen enjoyed it as much as the local Escrime Pays de Lunel club.

"These courses in the provinces allow us both to give the athletes a change of scenery but to introduce our sport to clubs in other territories and to share our knowledge with local technicians",< /em> explains Hervé Faget, manager of the French women’epee team.

Illustration of this sharing with the half-day organized on Wednesday to allow young fencers from Lunel to shoot against the champions. "It’is a plus and an enriching experience which allows you to improve your technique and your perception of actions", explains Mélodie, a young local swordsman, who then mingled with the pack of seekers. ;rsquo;autographs to attack in particular Marie-Florence Candassamy, the world champion.

The Lunel club, which has branches in the surrounding villages, is one of the densest in Occitanie with nearly 200 members after only seven years of existence. Proof that regional coverage still leaves something to be desired.

"No doubt fencing still has this label as a sport of the rich having long lived through garrisons", explains David Maillard, the club treasurer and former Paralympic team champion.

"Developing a fencing club is very restrictive, adds president Lionel Pagès. We need more sophisticated infrastructures than for judo, such as electrification boxes."

"Every meeting is important to promote them, supports David Maillard. We are also invested in promoting the territory by providing diplomas to weapons masters."

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