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“We are a little late”… Why French badminton, king of EPS, does not have very high level players

We are reduced to that. Like the vulgar student that we were, hoping that there would be a wave of withdrawals to progress in the waiting list and reach the holy Grail, namely the list of admitted to the school of journalism. We were going a long way, very far (36th on this famous waiting list), but everything went well and here we are, writing articles that you read with passion and attention. Brice Leverdez, he had a little less way to go. Thirty-seventh badminton player in the world, the Frenchman was fourth on the waiting list for the main draw of the French Open, which begins this Tuesday in Paris. After a few withdrawals, the number one tricolor will be at Coubertin (just like Thomas Rouxel, drafted at the last minute) to defend the blue-white-red flag in singles. But, of suspense, there will be none: there is very little chance that you will hear The Marseillaise resound in the Parisian room.

Whether in men’s or women’s, singles or doubles, the French are lagging behind in the world rankings. For example, no hexagonal badiste will be present in the main draw at Coubertin. Hard and bitter observation for a sport practiced by millions of kids at school. Because, unlike handball which brings champions to the shovel, the discipline does not surf on its anchoring in school to train players of very high level thereafter. “Badminton only really took hold in schools about ten years ago, explains Patrice Lannoy, president of the Chambly club (Oise). It takes a little patience, it takes time to train, but the champions will soon start arriving on the circuit. »

Early detection needed

Badminton has a large base of players from a numerical point of view, but has not been able to exploit this potential, with only 190,000 licensees (20th most practiced sport in France). And yet, many are crazy about the uphill-downhill matches in the college gymnasium, where you played your life. “The very talented kid at school, he does not necessarily have the approach of enrolling in a club”, assures the president of the French Badminton Federation, Florent Chayet. “Often, the student who is strong at bad, he already practices a racket sport, such as tennis or table tennis, in a club”, adds Arnaud Gazel, PE teacher in a college in Colombes (Hauts- de-Seine).

So how do you take advantage of this pool of budding badminton players? In Chambly, the club organizes interventions in primary schools, to promote and educate young people about bad. “If we go about it in college or high school, it’s already too late to train high-level players,” confirms Patrice Delabrouille, head of the France center in Bordeaux. An early sensitization necessary for a country which does not have the bad culture and a sport which lacks notoriety and media coverage. “However, the broadcasters are always surprised by the good audiences they have with badminton”, notes Florent Chayet.

Footbridges to be improved

Schools also have a role to play in directing children to badminton clubs. “We could do as with athletics, where at the end of each year, we organize a meeting in partnership with the Colombes club, which allows him to detect the good elements”, continues the prof. And, why not, base ourselves on experiences lived abroad: “We are a little late, in France, concedes Delabrouille. I went to Bulgaria and, at school, the teachers who detect young players and direct them towards the clubs can have a huge return, even with money. »

Better bridges between clubs and the school level should also be put in place to promote the emergence of talent. Delabrouille, always:

“Today, the system means that if the kids are too strong in clubs, they can no longer play in UNSS with the school. A bridge remains to be invented in France between the clubs, the Federation and the schools. At the moment, it’s a bit every man for himself. We have succeeded in establishing a single system, with a local agreement between Creps and two schools in Talence. Since this year, the young people have been training ten hours a week and benefiting from a flexible timetable. »

Better days are coming

To improve the reception of players and the competitiveness of the teams, a labeling of youth clubs has been put in place, level feathers (such as judo belts) have been introduced for the youngest players and documents have been sent. for trainers. Results, the clubs are struggling, the players too. All for the good of France. And not just any.

“We are in constant progress, I have high hopes for the future, even if we cannot be sure of anything, rejoices Florent Chayet. For Tokyo 2020, our chances of medals are almost nil, if not nil. But this is not the case for Paris 2024, where I think we can make good progress, and even less so for Los Angeles 2028.” Normal optimism when you see the results of the next generation. On October 13, Christo Popov (17) won silver at the Junior Worlds in Russia. France’s first medal in the history of the competition.

Fierce competition from Asia

Beyond Christo Popov, whose brother Toma Junior (21) is the third French player, the new crazy people behind the wheel are promising.

  • A year ago, France was European junior team champion.
  • Arnaud Merkle was European junior champion and semi-finalist at the Youth Olympics.
  • Thom Gicquel (21) and Delphine Delrue (20) form a promising pair in mixed doubles.
  • Sacha Lévêque was vice-champion of Europe under 17…

“All the work put in place is bearing fruit, things are accelerating, welcomes Delabrouille. There is even a way to have a player in the top 10 in the years to come. “Brice Leverdez prefers to remain cautious: “There have always been good young people in France. But, then, there is a world between the junior level and the senior level. The course is very difficult to pass. »

Especially since, facing the Blues, there will always be a monster armada from Asia, which is always years ahead. “In terms of means, the number of players, the culture of sport, the hours of training, there is no picture, they are ahead”, details the president of the Fed. “In Asia, badminton is a means of social elevation, and this is not the case here, adds Patrice Lannoy. For example, the Indian Pusarla Sindhu is in the top 15 of the highest paid sportswomen. In France, it is unimaginable. “And that, not sure that the school can change something.

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