01 June, 2015

The hurdles headline on 4 July at the Stade de France

Big news for Saturday 4 July 2015 at the Stade de France. For the very first time, the MEETING AREVA will offer spectators not one but two hurdles events. This initiative is being proposed by the French Athletics Federation, organiser of the French stage of the IAAF Diamond League as a result of the exceptional quality of the line-up, where the world’s top specialists will compete against an impressive armada of French hurdlers.

Laurent Boquillet, Director of the stage, made his announcement on Monday 1 June during the press conference at the Stade de France: “The calibre and number of French athletes in the 110m hurdles prompted us to add a second race. Pascal and Thomas Martinot-Lagarde, Garfield Darien, Wilhem Belocian, Dimitri Bascou and Ladji Doucouré, among others, will do battle with the current crop of world greats over this distance: Americans Aries Merrit, world record hurdler and Olympic champion, and David Oliver, reigning world champion, Cuban Orlando Ortega (13’’01 last year in Monaco) and Russian Sergey Shubenkov, European champion in 2012 and 2014.”

The French tradition of 110m hurdles was showcased in historic fashion back in March with the successful hat-trick at the European Athletics Indoor Championships in Prague by Pascal Martinot-Lagarde, Dimitri Bascou and Wilhem Belocian, who ranked in this order in the final of the 60m hurdles. However, this is far from new. Guy Drut, Olympic champion in Montreal in 1976, was the first and most famous example of this. Stéphane Caristan, European champion in 1986, continued in this vein. Pascal Martinot-Lagarde, French record holder with a time of 12’’95, world number 1 this season since his victory, on Saturday 30 May, at the Diamond League Meeting in Eugene, in a time of 13’’06, carries the standard today.

Three figures from the discipline, three generations of French hurdlers, which the organisers of the MEETING AREVA gathered together this Monday 1 June 2015 at the Stade de France, so as to share their experience and their vision of the 110m hurdles. A meeting at which Ladji Doucouré, world champion in 2005, ought to have been part of had he not been double-booked by an important training session at that very moment.

Guy Drut and Stéphane Caristan explain: both of them having come to the high hurdles from pole-vaulting. “My club, in the Pas-de-Calais region, wasn’t wealthy enough to have pole-vaulting equipment”, says the former. “In the eighties, the standard of French pole-vaulting was so high that I stood more of a chance of making the French team in the 110m hurdles”, recalls the second. However, the two ‘old hands’ press the point, like Pascal Martinot-Lagarde, of France’s expertise in this discipline. “The French hurdlers are very particular, explains Stéphane Caristan. The passing on of knowledge takes place through training that is encouraged and supported by the French Athletics Federation, by history and by results.”

Pascal Martinot-Lagarde, at just 23 years of age but last year’s winner of the IAAF Diamond League, tells of the hours spent in front of his computer immersing himself in the technique of the high hurdles through archive footage and videos. “I can really see myself awarding him the gold medal in the 110m hurdles next year at the Olympic Games in Rio”, suggested Guy Drut, turning to his young successor.

Another distinguished guest of the MEETING AREVA press conference on this Monday 1 June 2015 at the Stade de France: Renaud Lavillenie. The world record holder in the pole-vaulting has also accepted the invitation from the organisers of the French stage of the IAAFDiamond League. Another athlete just back from the United States, where he created a stir by improving on his personal best outdoors with a jump of 6.05m at the Meeting in Eugene, the Frenchman repeated his desire to extend his long winning streak at the MEETING AREVA at the Stade de France on Saturday 4 July. However, one of his main focuses will be to clear and even exceed the 6m barrier. “In favourable conditions, I hope to finally clear at least 6m at the MEETING AREVA, explained Renaud Lavillenie. I’ve managed to up my game year on year since I began competing at the highest level. Right now, I want to jump 6m each time I perform, as Sergueï Bubka managed to do in his golden years.”

It’s worth noting that the MEETING AREVA 2015, where the organisers are expecting “at least 45,000 spectators” on 4 July, will also be marked by the presence of Usain Bolt, which is guaranteed to be remarkable. The Jamaican will be competing in the 100m, one of the most eagerly awaited events of the evening. An explosive and enticing cocktail…