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Olympics preview: France aims for 40 medals at Tokyo 2020

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PARIS, July 22 (Xinhua) — French athletes will definitely catch some eyes at the upcoming Tokyo Olympic Games, scheduled from July 23 to August 8, as the capital of the country will host the next Summer Olympics in 2024.

A total of 378 athletes, 212 men and 166 women, will represent France to compete in 31 sports in Tokyo, including the four newly-added events: surfing, skateboarding, climbing and karate.

Claude Onesta, the manager of high performance at the National Sports Agency (ANS), reveals that Team France aims for a similar outcome from the Rio 2016 Games.

“The lack of analysis for our athletes and the competitions makes the projections even more uncertain,” Onesta said earlier this month. “We will be at an equivalent level to that in Rio, around 40 medals.”

The Blues won 42 medals five years ago in Brazil, with 399 athletes – 10 gold, 18 silver and 14 bronze, which was their best post-war record.

However, the ambition is far beyond this.

As Paris is going to host the Olympic Games for the third time three years later, the country is biding to improve its status in the medals standings and this is why ANS was established in 2019.

This new sports governing body was split into two sub-divisions, one of which managed the development of sports practice and the other elite performance. Onesta, the former head coach of the glorious French handball team, was appointed the head of the high level performance division.

The goal of the high level performance division is to identify the potential Olympic medalists and ensure financial support for them to prepare for the Games. There are already 404 athletes that have been included in the program, as each of them can get a minimum income of 40,000 euros per year.

So, Tokyo 2020, to some degree, is just a warm-up for the French delegation, and Onesta has revealed their target for Paris 2024 – double the medals tally to 80.

In Tokyo, handball is one of some sports that France can place the title hope on, with both the men’s and women’s teams are the main contenders for a medal or even the gold.

Nicknamed “Les Experts,” the men’s team won two straight golds at Beijing 2008 and London 2012, before losing to Denmark in the final of Rio 2016. Although they only ranked fourth at the world championships earlier this year in Egypt, nobody can look down upon them when it comes to the Olympic stage. France will take on European champions Spain, as well as Argentina, Brazil, Germany and Norway in Group A.

On the women’s side, the Rio 2016 runners-up have shown their consistency over the past five years, winning the world championship title and Euro title. With Olivier Krumbholz at the helm, everybody knows what to expect from France; a sharp defense, devastating fast breaks and low-scoring games, yet few teams have deciphered their blueprint and beaten “Les Bleues” in the past years.

French athletes have won 716 medals at the Summer Olympic Games, with fencing and cycling as the top medal-producing sports. In Tokyo, the fencers and cyclists are bidding to add more titles to the honors list.

The French fencing team is the title favorites for men’s team foil and epee, and women’s team foil and sabre. The 29-year-old Lefort Enzo will try to clinch a medal in individual foil.

In cycling, Pauline Ferrand-Prevot and her young teammate Loana Lecomte are very likely to bring a gold in cross-country racing.

Judo is another sport which French athletes are worth looking forward to as the flag bearer at the opening ceremony Clarisse Agbegnenou and two-time Olympic champion Teddy Riner are both title favorites in their category.

And don’t forget football, the 1984 Olympic champions are looking to grab another gold this summer in Tokyo. Even without World Cup winner Kylian Mbappe, the French team are still strong contenders with Malang Sarr and Jonathan in the side, as well as experienced Florian Thauvin.

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