With a total of 137 athletes competing in all but three sports – and represented in all individual events – France wants to make a strong statement through the program.
“France can aim for medals in most of the 19 sports,” said Jean Minier, chef de mission. « It is important for our team to increase the number of medals to set up a positive dynamic for the next three years.
“We are also pleased to have with us many young athletes who will gain experience in Tokyo for Paris 2024.”
One of these young people is the paraglider Erica Sauzeau. Positioned as one of the most promising prospects for Tokyo 2020, and even more so for Paris 2024, Sauzeau was spotted through the “La Relève” program launched in 2019 by the French Paralympic Committee.
In April this year, Sauzaeu was part of the PRX Mix4 + silver medalist team at the European Championships.
“I feel good as the Games approach, no pressure or stress at the moment, I am focused on working with the team,” said Sauzeau. “The work has intensified in recent months, we have worked a lot because this is a new crew composition, we are two new women in the PR3 mixed 4+.
“The progress is constant and it’s quite exhilarating because I know that we can still improve.
The Frenchwoman hopes for more success at Tokyo 2020, including a podium, but she has an eye on the longer term:
“Now it’s true that I’m waiting for something else for Paris 2024, farewell COVID and make way for the festivities. The magic of the Games that I have often heard about… the excitement of the public, the exchanges with other athletes! And above all, it’s at home afterwards. The size will necessarily be increased tenfold.
“Representing France at the Games is a real honor and a great source of pride. I dream of making our beautiful Marseillaise resonate.
Naturally, being one of the most prolific countries at the Paralympic Games, France will also look to the more experienced members of its team in Japan.
Judoka Sandrine Martinet will go for gold in women up to 48 kg, after winning the title at Rio 2016 in the up to 52 kg. Since his change, Martinet has won bronze at the World Championships in 2018 and the European title in 2019.
“I feel good as the Games approach, the sensations are good, I want to have fun on the tatami,” said Martinet. “My preparation went well despite the health situation – we were able to adapt.
“My goal for Tokyo is to win a second title in a different category. It is obviously very important for me to win gold, but also for my family, especially my children, to give meaning to the sacrifices that we had to make. And this medal also allows me to thank all the people who supported me and helped me up and down the tatami mats to get it.
Judo at Tokyo 2020 will have special meaning for athletes. Judo was born in Japan and the competition will take place at the iconic martial arts venue, the Nippon Budokan.
“For judokas, the Tokyo Games in the land of judo have a very special flavor, winning is a plus and for us French a springboard for the Paris Games in three years”, continues Martinet.
“I can also add that, for me, these Games are also very special because I have the honor and the pride of being the standard bearer of the French delegation with [wheelchair tennis player] Stéphane Houdet.
“For us French, the Games are a great opportunity to make our Movement known.
It is in this spirit that Marie Amélie Le Fur will take to the track not only as returning champion of the women’s 400m and the T44 long jump, but also as President of the French Paralympic Committee.
In table tennis, Rio 2016 Paralympic champions Fabien Lamirault and Stéphane Molliens return and will be joined by other Paralympic medalists Maxime Thomas, Florian Merrien and Thu Kamkasomphou.
The men’s épée and foil teams will go for gold in wheelchair fencing against the backdrop of a historic Paralympic record. So far, eight gold medals have gone to France in épée while the foilists have won four.
The common flag bearer Houdet is the former winner of Roland-Garros with his partner Nicolas Peifer in men’s doubles, as well as the reigning Paralympic champions of Rio 2016. In singles, Houdet has twice won the Roland-Garros crown. as well as victory at the US Open.
Ⓒ OIS Photos
In total at Rio 2016, France won at least one medal in 12 of the 17 sports in which it participated, making 28 in total. With a goal of at least 35 medals for Tokyo 2020 and the recent unification with the Olympic team, Martinet believes this sends a clear message to the public:
“In France, thanks to the Games, we have created a unified team between the Olympic and Paralympic teams. [This was] In order to create even more cohesion around the athletes for the Games in Paris and to inspire society, in terms of equality and inclusion, and that we are above all athletes motivated by a single objective: performance.