He may become the first three-time Olympic heavyweight judoka, all in the temple of judo, Japan. At 32, Teddy Riner can (even more) mark the history of his sport and the Games. The postponement should have benefited him. While he suffered his first defeat in ten years in early 2020, he was able to rebuild his physical condition during this forced break.
She will also be arch-favorite in the under 63 kg category. Except that she was never an Olympic champion. In silver in Rio, Clarisse Agbegnenou, the tricolor flag-bearer, five-time world champion, has only one metal in mind: gold.
In an emblematic Olympic event, the decathlon, also marked the history of its sport. Kevin Mayer, world record holder in the discipline (with 9,126 points in 2018), will be at the head of French athletics in Tokyo.
There are the stars, and there are the athletes, probably less known to the general public, but who have also donned the costume of favorite, or at least have great chances of a medal. And they are many. First, there is the one who has already won the Olympic title, a certain Charline Picon, crowned in Rio in windsurfing. La Rochelaise may become, in Tokyo, the first female double Olympic champion in windsurfing. A challenge in its measure.
Then there are those who dominate their sport and intend to conquer their first Olympic gold. In fencing, swordsman Yannick Borel won everything individually, except the Olympic title. At 32, the opportunity is there. At hand. As for Vincent Luis in triathlon. Only 7th in Rio, the triathlete has since become world number one in his discipline and two reigning world champion. And this year, he will not have the double Olympic champion Alistair Brownlee in the paws. Revenge, the Herbert-Mahut pair is also. Titled in doubles at Roland Garros, Wimbledon, the US Open, the Australian Open and the Masters, the French tennis players missed out in Rio, exited in the first round.
In sailing, the Brestoises Camille Lecointre, bronze in Rio, and Aloïse Retornaz, will also be among the favorites in 470. In swimming, where the French favorites are not legion, Marc-Antoine Olivier will chase gold in the 10 km in open water, having conquered bronze in Rio. In shooting (speed at 25 m), Jean Quiquampoix has everything to climb the last step to gold, after Rio silver. At 25, the pistolier, European champion in 2021, seems ripe for the supreme title.
Finally, there is the one who discovers the Games, and who will be the favorite for his premiere. For the simple reason that his sport was not Olympic four years ago! He is the karateka Steven Da Costa. World number one in the – 67 kg category and reigning world champion, he will have no other opportunity to shine: karate has not been selected for Paris 2024.
2024 can consecrate them and, for some of them, 2021 too. Among the young people who go up, Loana Lecomte (VTT) is the greatest hope. Not really on the radar in 2020, she took advantage of the postponement of the Games to explode. Literally. At almost 22 years old, the Haut-Savoyarde is advancing as the favorite in the cross-country event. It’s simple, she has won everything this season (four wins in four World Cup events).
And the mountain biker isn’t the only youngster aiming high in Tokyo. In gymnastics, Mélanie De Jesus Dos Santos, 21 years old and quadruple European champion, can become the first blue Olympic medalist since the coronation of Émilie Le Pennec on uneven bars in 2004. To gold? Let’s not dream too much, because the American Simone Biles seems well on the way to winning.
Gold, wrestler Koumba Larroque can dream of. The reigning European champion (22 years old) will be rivaled by the world champion of – 68 kg, the American Tamyra Mensah. In archery, Lisa Barbelin, 21 and European champion, has had a full season and can dream of a medal. The Tsurigasaki velodrome and surf beach will also be one to watch closely, with Mathilde Gros (22, keirin and individual speed) and Johanne Defay, respectively, having a chance to play. In swimming, Yohann Ndoye, Maxime Grousset and Léon Marchand can also create surprises.
We didn’t expect to see some of them in this category. Still, they won’t be favorites in Tokyo. Olympic champion in the 50m freestyle in London and star of world swimming, Florent Manaudou advances as the outsider of the American benchmark of the one-way trip Caeleb Dressel. Not bad for a swimmer who took a three-year break in 2016.
He too is a world star in his sport. Former world record holder (6.16 m in 2014), gold medal in London then silver in Rio, Renaud Lavillenie will still play a medal in Tokyo, but has not won a major title since 2018. Back from injury, he will face the new pole vault star, new world record holder (6.18 m), Armand Duplantis.
Potential medal winners, there are others. Full. If it is difficult to name them all, let us note all the same Pauline Ferrand-Prévot (mountain biking), Samir Ait-Said (gymnastics), Yohann Diniz (walking), Élodie Clouvel (modern pentathlon), Mélina Robert-Michon (disc) , Alexandra Tavernier and Quentin Bigo (hammer), Julia Chanourdie (climbing), the French men’s and women’s handball, men’s basketball and volleyball teams, not to mention the Breton David Gaudu (road cycling).
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