Already present at the Rio Games, Mame-Ibra Anne (31) will participate in Tokyo in these second Olympics. The Ile-de-France and best French reference in the 400m in recent years had failed at the gates of the final five years ago in the 4x400m relay. This time, the leader of the Blues is certain that the final is playable. To put it mildly. First part of the interview granted to us by the double French champion in his specialty.
Mame Ibra Anne, how are you approaching these Tokyo Olympics?
To be honest, I’m not really looking forward to the trip, because apparently it’s super long. There is a long wait at the airport, between four and five and a half hours of waiting between the PCR and saliva tests to be done on site and all the paperwork to be completed. The Japanese are very, very sharp and picky about their process of welcoming foreigners. I saw that five Polish swimmers couldn’t go to the Games because of administrative problems, so that means they are really strict. Otherwise, after that, of course there is also the excitement, because it’s still the Olympic Games. For any athlete, this is the number 1 event, so we all worked very hard and casually, even with all the delay there was because of the Covid, it’s still the Games and I’m happy to ‘participate.
It is still games, of course, but it will ultimately take place behind closed doors. Is that still a special aspect?
All those who say: “no, it doesn’t matter, it’s still the Games”, I’m not going to call them liars, but it’s still the event that does the trick. When you have a big competition when there are a lot of people, you have that extra energy left and there is noise in the stadium… There, unfortunately, it’s going to be very, very different. I am even a little sad to live the Games without an audience and without our loved ones. In the stadium, you often have friends who can come and experience this adventure with you. There, unfortunately, that will not be the case. It will be a particular context, but it will be necessary to be strong and to disregard it.
As far as you are concerned more particularly, you have not experienced the truly ideal preparation…?
Yes, it was difficult because I had gone two months without training and because we had decided to organize it more or less differently. There was also this vaccination which was requested but which arrived very very late and impacted a lot of athletes in their preparation. I was really vaccinated at the very beginning of my first competitions and we could see that there was a problem. We couldn’t really figure out, we thought maybe it was the training that was too much. As I had a child, we thought maybe it was the fact that I was a dad that influenced etc. After the vaccination, I was really less good at the level of training, suddenly, I I was a bit lost in competition, but with each competition, I got stronger, and that let me say that I had all my chances to go to the Games. I really qualified at the last minute and that’s difficult, because to optimize your preparation, when you have doubts during the season, it’s not easy.
In terms of your pure sporting performances, what do you remember from this season?
For me, inevitably, it will not remain an anthology season. It’s a season that will be different in the sense that it will really be the event that will make the performance for me and that will allow me to be at my best. Because casually, public or not, this is the kind of competition we like. With that adrenaline, that confrontation. The French Championships were a point of passage which was important for all the athletes but for me, if only to have a little bit of public and to find this side of big pressure in mode “if you miss it , it’s over ”, it did me a lot of good. What I like is high competition so ideal preparation or not, the Games will remain the Games, and the goal is to be as efficient as possible there.
Anne: “The weapons to make at least one final”
What will be your schedule in Tokyo before the playoffs?
We have a fairly generous adaptation schedule. We will have to adapt to the conditions. We will have a life like in a bubble with a hotel, training route, hotel then stadium, and it will be a little weird at the beginning, but otherwise, the training will weld the collective and the objective will be to start the series as soon as possible. possible costs.
Do you already know Japan?
Yes, we had already done the World Relay Championships there in 2019. In addition, we are returning to the same base camp in Kobe. At the time, I was able to visit Osaka and Tokyo a little bit, it was very beautiful and we had a great time. It will not be as open but I still hope that we can enjoy a minimum, even if it will be difficult.
How lucky are you at these Tokyo Games?
Honestly, looking at this season, I think it’s playable. Apart from the United States, no country emerges. For the rest, there will be a match. The fact that France has been a world finalist for three World Championships allows us to be able to say that we will be in the final and that it will be open. In addition, this year the calendar system is very particular, namely that the 400m final is scheduled between the relay laps, so some countries will be at a disadvantage, because when you have an athlete who is a finalist and who will have five 400m in the legs (sic), it will not be the same. There are a lot of athletes who have had a great season but not everyone is necessarily at the same point, it can be really very, very interesting. And after that, it’s still the Games, and for the youngest, a success in the Olympic Games, it can really launch a career and even perpetuate it. So, it’s up to everyone to give the maximum to achieve the best possible result.
Anne: “Sad for Christopher Naliali”
Do you have the impression that the French relay is stronger than that of 2016?
It is stronger on the performances of the year, because we were two at 45 seconds, and there is more, but as regards the collective side, the 2016 relay was stronger, because it is a relay which had turned on 2014 and 2015. We had arrived with athletes a little injured but who had been up to the event. We had the ninth fastest time so we really narrowly missed the final. There, I think we have the weapons to make at least one final and then embark on a new Olympiad. We are not necessarily the most awaited relay, because there is not the big star like Jimmy (Vicaut) or a Lemaitre, even if he does not go. Suddenly, we will talk a lot more about the 4x100m relay on which there is a lot more waiting and a lot more money. But the most regular relay for five, six, seven years is the French 4x400m relay.
Introduce us to your relay teammates …
My oldest teammate is Thomas Jordier, who has had the best season of his career with a lot of lap times at 45 seconds. Gilles Biron, I know a little less. He is only one year younger than Thomas (26) but he has been running for a long time. He had not yet had the opportunity to express himself fully, but he had a good season and very good French Championships. Muhammad Kounta has enormous potential in the 400m hurdles and the 400m flat. This year, I think he was a bit injured to be able to train normally on the hurdles so he chose the flat, but he also had his personal best and a very good season. The rookie Ludovic Ouceni, with whom I have been training for two years, also has enormous potential. He demonstrated it this year by finishing 7th in the European Under-21 Championship. It’s an interesting potential that you can put aside for Paris 2024. Finally, there is Christopher Naliali, who was double champion of France in 2018 and 2019. He is a little older (29 years old) but he has the potential to push this collective. I am a little sad because he is a replacement and because of the sanitary rules, he will only be able to come to train in the base camps but will not be in the village. It’s a bit ugly for the substitutes to go to the Games without really being there.
Do you think these are the best selected possible or could someone else have claimed a place in this relay?
I would have liked to have seen Téo Andant, who is having a checkered season because of small injuries and who arrived a little strong at the end of the season, but it was already too late. There is Fabrisio Saidy, who had been European U23 champion in 2019 and has a lot of potential, but this year he was already coming back from something big and I think he made up for it, and physically he was a bit tight. He is one of the ideal profiles for Paris 2024, but it would have been really good to put him on the adventure. I am convinced that it is one of the biggest potential of the French 400m in the years to come and it is a shame not to have seen it expressed more this season. Afterwards, there are plenty of new young people who have sprouted. It was fair for some but they may be thinking that they have the profile for Paris 2024.
Find the second part of this interview on Friday