Team Belgium will always be my number one team, that’s a fact. But team France has been making its way up on my personal podium as well. So, here’s seven reasons why you should start rooting for l’équipe française.
- Team France is essentially an underdog team, but that doesn’t keep them from always coming up with great gymnastics in general and with some difficult skills executed really well.
- The best example of that is Melanie De Jesus Dos Santos. France’s top all-arounder was born in Martinique and has been training in Saint-Étienne since 2012. Melanie had set her sights on the Rio Olympics, but injured her ACL at EYOF in the summer of 2015. After working her way back slowly but steadily, she faced a second big disappointment when she didn’t get selected for the Olympic team. Despite this, she continued to improve and one year later she earns the bronze medal at the European Championships and achieves her personal goal of finishing top 5 at Worlds.
- The team doesn’t really have a weak apparatus. Aside from good all-arounders at the base, their qualities are well-balanced across the four events. Coline Devillard is the current European vault champion and Melanie vaults a double-twisting yurchenko. There’s plenty of girls to choose from on uneven bars, since Loan His, Alison Lepin, Oréane Lechenault and Melanie are all brilliant bar workers. Their current beam specialist is Marine Boyer, who finished 4th in the Olympic event final. On floor, Melanie is the most powerful tumbler, Marine has recently upgraded to a 2,5 twist+full twist and Juliette Bossu has the most captivating floor routine, including a whip-whip to triple twist.
- Because the Big Four are usually in the spotlight, the successes of other teams often get overshadowed. In recent years, Claire Martin won European beam bronze in 2015, Marine won European beam silver in 2016 and Melanie won European AA bronze this year. As a team, they won European bronze in 2016 and finished 11th at both the London and the Rio Olympics, apart from qualifying two gymnasts to the Rio AA final.
- Even though they don’t always end up on the podium and they might have an occasional meltdown, the French team has lots of good all-arounders. Marine Boyer already was a promising junior back in 2015 and hasn’t failed to live up to her potential. Juliette Bossu also caught my eye back in 2015, but unfortunately hasn’t made it to the biggest competitions yet. (With her long lines and unique style, she’s especially beautiful to watch on bars and floor.) The sisters Grace and Lorette Charpy don’t have a real standout event, but instead they can put up good scores on any apparatus. The senior of the team is Louise Vanhille, who has plenty of experience and is still going strong.
- We’ll be enjoying French gymnastics for years to come, since France has a whole squad of fantastic juniors coming up. Morgane Osyssek, Alisson Lapp and Sheyen Petit are turning senior in 2018. Although Morgane and Alisson have been held back by injuries this year, I expect them to develop further and surprise us with some great skills in 2018. Sheyen is capable of emerging from the shadows if she keeps up her beautiful work on beam and improves her difficulty on the other three.And then… there’s a whole army of promising gymnasts I expect to burst onto the scene if they can keep going and stay healthy. The frontrunners born in 2003 are Carolann Heduit, with huge difficulty, and Celia Serber, who’s rising to the top slowly but steadily. Julia Forestier and Aline Friess are right behind them and are making names for themselves as well. The group of 2004 girls are only turning senior in 2020, but we’ll surely hear from Mathilde Wahl, Charlene Birin, Eva Meder, Salsabil Tounan and Alizee Letrange-Mouakit.
- To top things off, the French have an awesome collection of pretty leotards.