Three years from the Paris Olympics, “life goes on” at the French Athletics Federation?

Asked by The team, Friday September 17, André Giraud assures him: life goes on to the French Athletics Federation (FFA). No concern therefore for the president of the FFA, two days after the departure of Florian Rousseau from the direction of high performance.

In announcing his decision, the latter had for his part insisted on the fact that he had not resigned, but just chose not to renew a mission which had officially ended at the end of August. And the three-time Olympic champion in track cycling to clear up any misunderstanding, there too in the columns of daily sports : he … not don’t leave the ship , don’t leave angry.

If Florian Rousseau had seen fit to make these details, it is because the temporality of his announcement does not fail to challenge, after a summer marked by the departure of the interim national technical director (DTN), Anne Barrois, and the poor results of the Blues at the Olympic Games (Olympics) in Tokyo – only one medal, Kevin Mayer’s silver in the decathlon, for sixty-five athletes entered.

Read also: At the Tokyo 2021 Olympics, the blue ills of French athletics

Ten times world champion, titled as national coach, having also worked with all Olympic sports at the National Institute of Sport, Expertise and Performance (Insep), Florian Rousseau was presented as the providential man of the FFA when he arrived in early 2020. The one brought to embody its deep restructuring.

The France team had come out, a few months earlier, from chaotic World Athletics Championships in Doha (Qatar) – only two medals: silver for Quentin Bigot with the hammer and bronze for Pascal Martinot-Lagarde over 110 meters hurdles -, in a context parasitized by extra-sporting problems and doping cases. While the Federation was plunged into a deep crisis, around twenty high-level athletes had demanded serenity to be able to concentrate to 100 % on their sports goals “.

Read also: The Blues sink at the Doha World Athletics Championships

A “fundamental problem”

“I notice that we did not have the desired operation , then agreed André Giraud, grateful a fundamental problem . Spurred on by several athletes and coaches for its supposed disorganization and a certain opacity in the missions of its managers, the Federation then decided to clarify its functioning, by establishing a new triumvirate: alongside the general manager, Souad Rochdi, a high performance director would be in charge of monitoring of the athletes of the France team, while the DTN’s mission would henceforth be limited to the development of sport.

Patrice Gergès, the DTN at the time, had little taste of this new organization chart and left his post at the end of the year. Anne Barrois, who had been acting since early 2021, also chose to throw in the towel a few months later, while the president of the FFA, André Giraud, did not want to keep her in this position. Again with the backdrop of tensions over the roles assigned, the latter having, according to the president, encroached on the prerogatives of Florian Rousseau.

However, when voices are raised to criticize the influence of the general manager, Souad Rochdi, or that of the director of the French teams within the high performance cell, the former athlete Mehdi Baala, Mr. Giraud sweeps away : ” There are people who accept the changes, others who do not. I am here to bring together elected officials, employees and DTNs. There are a number of people, inside and out, who allow themselves to make judgments without necessarily knowing the substance of things. And the latter to hammer: We put a policy in place.

Three years from the next Olympic Games at home, here is the mille-feuille in the governance of the FFA deprived of two major layers. Expected at the beginning of September, then postponed to mid-September, the choice of the new DTN will finally not be made before October, the date of the auditions of the candidates still not being fixed. As for the performance director, the federation has announced that it will soon part of the new organization that will be put in place “. Syears more precision.

More directive management

The sense of urgency, however, is already being felt. All the more so as Claude Onesta, the manager of high performance at the National Sports Agency (ANS), has set for France the objective of appearing in the five first nations at the 2024 Paris Games in his plan “Blue ambition »Reform of the French sports model. A course unattainable without the competition of athletics, the first Olympic sport.

Read also: After the disappointment of Tokyo, more resources for “medal-winning” athletes for the 2024 Olympics in Paris

On the return from Japan, the former French handball coach did not hide his dissatisfaction with the poor results of the Blues, warning that the federations that had failed in the Japanese capital should expect a more directive management. In the forefront of the targets: the FFA. We have to move very quickly towards decision-making (…). If the project does not seem to us to be on the scale of ambitions or if it is unsuitable, we will not hesitate to let it know , he warned on August 9, in an interview with The team.

Despite the failure of the Olympics, André Giraud was nevertheless satisfied with the work of Florian Rousseau in whom he had also renewed his confidence and that he wished to see his mission continue. He was the man for the job (…) There has been a lack of success for which he is not responsible. But when you compare the atmosphere in Tokyo to that of Doha, it’s night and day , he reacted after the announcement of the departure of his performance director.

By the admission of the president of the FFA, Florian Rousseau had taken the measure of the complexity of athletics, whose multidisciplinarity reinforces internal oppositions. And maybe that’s all the problem. We ask the athletes to be very, very good at the Olympics, the coaching must be too, argued the former tracker when he arrived at the Federation in 2020. Even the smallest grain of sand can disrupt an athlete’s performance.

The sports ministry reframes the federations

The time has come for post-Olympic reframing. In a letter addressed to the presidents of French sports federations, the Minister for Sports wished to recall the rules for appointing national technical directors (DTN), and their role. In this document, of which AFP is aware, the sports director and former athlete Gilles Quénéhervé insists in particular on the articulation between the DTN and the directors of high performance, set up in some federations: the first is “Competent to supervise the action” of the second. As for the procedure for the nomination of DTNs, the sports director recalls that the choice is ultimately up to the “Two ministers”, sports and national education. Recently, at the judo federation, the nomination of the DTN was postponed following the refusal of the sports management to propose to the ministers the choice of the president of the federation.

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