French Athletes Performing Well at London Olympics
With the 2012 summer Olympic games underway, France’s athletes have shined among the world’s best competitors, wrapping up a successful London debut. With eight gold, eight silver and nine bronze medals for a total of 25, France has claimed a spot as the sixth-most decorated country as of August 6.
Olympic first-timer Céline Goberville started France off with a bang, claiming a silver medal on the first day in Women’s 10-meter Air Pistol. “It’s an extraordinary feeling, one that I certainly didn’t expect,” said Mrs. Goberville of her victory.
The following days demonstrated France’s prowess in the martial arts, with six athletes medaling in judo. Lucie Décosse followed her silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, earning the Judo Women’s Middleweight gold medal. Mrs. Décosse had previously captured both the European and World judo title. Fellow French judokas Priscilla Gneto, Automne Pavia, Ugo Legrand, Gévrise Émane and Audrey Tcheuméo each won a bronze medal in various weight classes. A week later, French star Teddy Riner captivated audiences with his gold-medal performance in the Men’s Heavyweight division.
The domain in which France has proven most adept thus far, however, is in the pool, where its swimmers have earned one bronze, two silver and four gold medals. Camille Muffat and Yannick Agnel, both from the Mediterranean city of Nice, each captured three medals in individual and group races. Mrs. Muffat first won the gold in the Women’s 400-meter Freestyle and later added a silver medal in the 200-meter Freestyle. She then served as part of the French 4x200-meter Freestyle Relay team, earning the bronze with teammates Charlotte Bonnet, Ophélie-Cyrielle Étienne and Coralie Balmy.
Mr. Agnel won his first gold medal as the anchor of the French team in the Men’s 4x100-meter Freestyle Relay, along with teammates Amaury Leveaux, Fabiet Gillot and Clément Lefert. In a frantic finish that threatened a repeat of France’s loss in the 2008 Olympics, he overcame a full body-length deficit to narrowly defeat an American team helmed by Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte.
The two teams squared off once more in the 4x200-meter Freestyle Relay, this time France finishing second to the United States. The habitual photo-finish races, dating back to 2008, have created a friendly rivalry between the French and American teams.
Mr. Agnel later earned a second gold in the Men’s 200-meter Freestyle, setting a national record time of one minute and 43 seconds, and became the first multiple-gold medalist of the London Olympics. “It’s a childhood dream come true,” he said.
French President François Hollande was on hand to witness the moment. “It’s a big reward for French swimming, a proud moment for him, and encouraging for the whole Olympic team,” he said. Florent Manaudou, younger brother of 2004 Olympic gold medalist Laure Manaudou, earned Team France’s fourth swimming gold in the Men’s 50-meter Freestyle and became the first French athlete to win the event.
Tony Estanguet added another gold medal to France’s total by winning the Men’s Singles Canoe Slalom, saving his best performance for the finals round. Emilie Fer followed on August 2 by mastering the rapids for a gold medal in Women’s Singles Kayak.
On August 2 in men’s cycling, Grégory Bauge, Michaël d’Almeida and Kévin Sireau grabbed a silver medal in the team sprint event. The duo Germain Chardin and Dorian Mortelette clinched the silver in Men’s coxless rowing the next day.
The following weekend proved fruitful, netting France four medals. Bryan Coquard captured a silver medal in Men’s Omnium cycling, while Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad finished between two Kenyan athletes in the Men’s 3000-meter Steeplechase for the silver. Delphine Reau and Jonathan Lobert added bronze medals in shooting and sailing, respectively.
The French team, dubbed "Club France" by sports media, continues to compete in some of the sports it has most strongly performed, including judo, rowing and women’s soccer.