Since the start of the summer, the tricolour middle-distance runners have become accustomed to posting a series of stand-out performances thanks to experienced athletes like Jimmy Gressier, Alice Finot, and Benjamin Robert heading the peloton. The first absolutely dominated the European 10,000m Cup in Pacé, France on 28 May in a time of 27’24’’51. The second made a sensational comeback in the 3,000m steeplechase in Huelva (Spain) on May 25, securing the French record in the discipline in 9:21.41. The third made it onto the first step of the Diamond League podium in Birmingham (UK) on 15 May, before equalling his personal best on 5 June in Chorzow (Poland) in 1:44.53. In Europe’s top three with these dazzling performances, all three will also be keen to excel on a global scale. To achieve that, what could be better, before taking on the major summer championships, than participating in the Diamond League-stamped races.
Gressier takes on the Ethiopians
France’s athletes will have it all in Paris on Saturday 18 June as they face the leading lights of world athletics, which is surely the perfect opportunity to have a crack at their personal bests and the top national benchmarks. In the 5,000 m, Jimmy Gressier, who qualified for the Olympic final over this distance last year, will also be keen to achieve the entry standard for the World Championships in Eugene (13:09.00), which is well within his reach. The French record, held since 2000 by Ismail Sghyr in 12:58.3, is considerably lower. To get close to that, the athlete from northern France (record of 13’08’’99) will have to hang on as long as possible to Ethiopians Selemon Barega (12:43.02) and Yomif Kejelcha (12:46.79), who are ranked among the best top 10 in the world of all time. In addition to Jimmy Gressier, there will be two more French athletes at the start of the race with their sights on Eugene: Hugo Hay, Félix Bour, and Yann Schrub, who’ve already posted some great performances this summer.
Finot’s baptism of fire
The 3,000 m steeplechase in Paris will be a major first for Alice Finot. Number two in the 3,000 m at the European Athletics Indoor Championships, she has made it through to the highest level late in the day and is now preparing herself for the prestige of the Diamond League competitions. In a baptism of fire on home turf, the 31-year-old athlete will be pitted against the Kazakh runner Norah Jeruto Tanui, who holds the record in 8’53’’65, and Bahraini Winfred Yavi, who has already run a time of 8:58.71 this summer. Both athletes have previously raced in the colours of Kenya. It will be the perfect opportunity to improve on her brand-new French record and maybe even tease 9’10’’. Flavie Renouard, who achieved the entry standard for the European Championships in Munich by reducing her personnal best to 9’36’’59 on 3 June in Manchester, will also make up the French contingent, along with Alexa Lemitre.
Robert, a fine tactician
The third middle-distance event on the programme at the Wanda Diamond League Meeting de Paris, the men’s 800 m, will also play host to a trio from metropolitan France. The attack will be spearheaded by Benjamin Robert, who is aiming for a top spot by bringing his tactical prowess into play. Though the 24-year-old from Toulouse has already secured his entry ticket for the Worlds in Eugene, the same cannot yet be said for Gabriel Tual, Olympic finalist in Tokyo, and 2017 world champion Pierre-Ambroise Bosse. As a result, there is a great deal at stake in the double lap of the track with a star cast that is set to include Olympic champion, Kenyan Emmanuel Korir, Botswanan Nijel Amos, the third-best performer of all time in this discipline (1:41.73), and Moroccan Moad Zahafi, who is top of the 2022 leader board with a time of 1:43.69