Lucas Créange, a para-athlete supported by Crédit Coopératif, is a bronze medalist at Tokyo 2021 in para table tennis, with category class 11 intellectual and mental disabilities, who has qualified once again for the Paralympic Games Paris 2024. Discover a very engaging table tennis champion, a sport enjoying increasing popularity.

Lucas Créange, 31, started playing table tennis in 2005 and subsequently joined the Adapted Sport category and, in 2014, the ‘Pôle France Sport Adapté’ national program dedicated to supporting high-performance sports for athletes with mental disabilities. He took part in his first international competition at the Spanish Open the following year. In 2016, he qualified for Rio with team-mate Pascal Pereira-Leal, where he reached the quarter-finals. In Tokyo, he won his first Paralympic medal with a position on the third step on the podium.

How did you get into table tennis?

I’d done a year of soccer, but I wasn’t very good at it, and I did a fair bit of horse-riding too. I really discovered table tennis at the home of my mother’s friends and really liked it. I joined a club and got my first license in 2005, at the Olympique Rémois table tennis club in Reims in the heart of the champagne wine-growing region in northeaster France. I’ve stayed loyal to the club ever since. It’s like a family. I’m one of the oldest members now.

How did you get to the top level?

Until 2014, I competed with the able-bodied, which I still do. That season, I was spotted and entered the adapted sport competitions in 2015. In the meantime, I had joined the CREPS sport center in Poitiers, where I still go regularly. I became French champion at my first French Adapted Sport Championships in 2015, and then went on to my first international competitions.

How many hours a week do you train?

I train twenty hours a week, in different places. I go to the National Training Center in Metz, but also to the CREPS in Poitiers and to my club in Reims.

You studied viticulture; would you like to work in the wine industry after your sporting career?

After obtaining a baccalaureate in agronomy and life sciences and technologies, I took a CAP vocational aptitude certificate in viticulture and oenology. I completed this by specializing in vine pruning. So, after my career in sport, I have the possibility of working in wine in my region of Champagne, but I’m not there yet… and, you know, maybe I’ll always work in sport, who knows?

You qualified for your 1st Paralympic Games in Rio and, in Tokyo, you won a bronze medal…

Yes, in Rio 2016, I lost in the quarter-finals, but in Tokyo, I won the bronze medal. It was extremely exciting!

And now you’ve just qualified for your 3rd Paralympic Games… and you’ll be competing in Paris…

Yes, it’s really great to have qualified again. It’s a great joy because, last January, it wasn’t a foregone conclusion. The fact that I managed to win two tournaments, one in Brazil and the other in Egypt, put me in a very good position in the world rankings and enabled me to qualify directly. Fortunately, I was able to deal with the pressure by being consistent throughout the two tournaments.

Is that a relief?

Yes, because there was a lot of pressure to qualify. Not qualifying for Paris 2024 would have been a huge disappointment. Above all, I can now concentrate on my preparation. I’m a lot calmer now. I’m happy to have managed this pressure well.

Especially as it’s a decisive factor in the Games…

Absolutely. Successful stress management is going to be the key to a great result at the Paralympics…

How do you prepare for that?

I have a mental trainer who I see about once a week, depending on my schedule.

What about nutrition?

I don’t have a nutritionist, but I’m careful because weight is an important factor in table tennis, where there’s a lot of moving around.

Do you do a lot of physical training?

Yes, I do muscle strengthening and running.

How is your preparation going?

To prepare for the Paralympic Games, we’ll be having a reunion with the entire adapted and disabled French table tennis team, with the presence of able-bodied relay players. There will also be some preparation time at the INSEP national sports institute.

What’s your playing style and what’s your particular strength?

Physically, I’m fine. Mentally, I’ve made progress, even if I still have some weaknesses. Technically, my strong point is the defensive backhand… I have a rather atypical, defensive game at the table.

In other words, you defend by standing very close to the table, which requires a lot of concentration, doesn’t it?

Yes, because you have to interpret the effect of the ball and its trajectory, which requires a lot of concentration. One wrong reading, one wrong touch of the ball in this position and you pay for it immediately…

What do you like about your sport?

I really enjoy playing table tennis and meeting up with my friends. It’s a friendly sport and one that allows me to put in great performances. I love it, the performance, the competition, scoring a good point or the decisive point for your team… Because this sport allows you to express yourself both individually and collectively, through team competitions, which is something I love. There are really two ways to come into your own in table tennis: individually and collectively…

How do you rate the media coverage of table tennis?

Up until now, I’ve felt that table tennis didn’t get enough media coverage, even though it’s a very spectacular sport. But with the sporting success of the Lebrun brothers – Alexis and Felix – things are changing. People who don’t know our sport at all talk to me about the Lebrun brothers!

Your sport, on the other hand, is the number one sport in China. Have you ever competed there?

It’s true that it’s the most popular sport in China. I competed there in 2018, but in my category there was one Taiwanese and no Chinese players, I have no idea why…

Do you have any other passions?

Soccer… I’m a fan of the Stade de Reims. I go to the stadium to watch the games whenever I can.

And what does the support of your partner, Crédit Coopératif, mean to you?

It’s very important to have a partner who supports me in my preparation, and above all it enables me to play at a high level. Otherwise I’d have to work and I wouldn’t be able to train as much as I do at present or reach my performance targets.

© G. Mirand