World Athletics Championships: heads held high!

Wednesday, 30 august 2023

Our athletes held their own in the extremely competitive context of the World Athletics Championships in Budapest. Wilhem Belocian, supported by the Caisse d’Epargne CEPAC, and Jimmy Gressier, supported by the Caisse d’Epargne Hauts de France, confirmed their elite status with fine individual performances.

No fewer than 46 medal-winning countries

It must be admitted, however, that the results of the French athletics team failed to live up to expectations, especially one year ahead of the Olympic Games Paris 2024. But athletics is a discipline in a class of its own. Along with soccer, it is perhaps the only sport truly practiced worldwide. The World Championships in Budapest attracted competitors from more than 100 nations from all around the globe. French athletes consequently had to face an intense struggle to achieve distinction, undoubtedly unlike anything encountered by their colleagues in other disciplines. 

From the Virgin Islands to Botswana and Pakistan, not to mention Ethiopia and the Philippines… no fewer than 46 countries from every continent won medals in these championships, which is a huge number. It’s more than twice as many as the World Judo Championships, for example, with 22 medal-winning countries, or three times as many as in fencing (15). In a fiercely competitive environment such as this, it’s already a remarkable achievement to win a place in the finals! It means ranking among the top eight in your discipline worldwide. These are places worth a medal in themselves… especially in long-distance running, the most universal of human activities. 

Training in Kenya’s Rift Valley 

This was the case for Wilhem Belocian, supported by Caisse d’Epargne CEPAC, who reached the final of the 110m hurdles at the World Championships. He was disappointed with his time of 13.32 seconds but left Budapest with his morale boosted for the next season. 

The same goes for Jimmy Gressier, supported by the Caisse d’Epargne Hauts de France. His 9th place in the 5,000m is also an impressive achievement in itself. Over this distance, he has to contend with all the runners from Kenya’s Rift Valley where, as we know, athletics is a real vector for social advancement, encouraging many runners to train ferociously to join the elite club of the world’s very best. In fact, Jimmy Gressier goes there at regular intervals to take part in training camps in order to test himself against the very best during his preparation. All the signs are that he will continue to make progress, as he has done every year so far. 

There are also those who simply had a bit of bad luck. For example, Hilary Kpatcha, supported by Banque Populaire Occitane, had to abandon her long jump qualifying round due to a hamstring injury. Despite the pain, she did everything she could but had to shelve her ambition to reach the finals to avoid risking more serious injury just one year ahead of the Olympic Games Paris 2024. Benjamin Robert, supported by Banque Populaire Occitane, was also unable to defend his chances to the full. With a calf injury sustained two weeks ago, and already handicapped by a torn hamstring a month ago, the European indoor runner-up could do no better than come in 6th place in his semi-final. It’s a pity, because he’d demonstrated in the heats that he had the potential to do much better by easily winning his race. Once these physical problems have been sorted out, however, these athletes can have high hopes of performing well next year.