A big salute to French Olympic heroes from the French press
Paris (France) - France's basketball players, both men and women, are being feted as heroes in the City of Light following their return from the Tokyo Olympics.
The men, led by coach Vincent Collet, used an opening day victory over the three-time defending champions USA as a launchpad to reach the Final before falling to the Americans in a close title game and leaving Tokyo 2020 with a silver medal.
The women, guided by Valerie Garnier, avenged their defeat to Serbia in the FIBA Women's EuroBasket Final in Valencia by beating them in the Bronze Medal Game.
Nicolas Batum's late block that preserved a 90-89 triumph over Slovenia in the Semi-Finals was probably the crème de la crème of memories.
Batum and Sandrine Gruda, who has spearheaded many of the French women's team's successes over the years, appeared on the cover of the magazine Paris Match with gold medalists Cléopâtre Darleux, Nikola Karabatić (both handball) and Earvin N'Gapeth (volleyball).
One of the happiest and proudest basketball clubs in France after the Olympics is Pays d'Auge Basket, where both Batum and women's national team star Marine Johannes got their starts.
Club president Sebastien Monnier and his daughter, Juliette, were all smiles after Batum and Johannes reached the podium.
— Ouest-France Sports (@sports_ouest) August 8, 2021
Basket. Sébastien Monnier : « A Pont-l’Évêque, tout le monde connaît quelqu’un du basket » https://t.co/evPnHl29Dd
Ouest France also celebrated the success of national team players and coaches that have connections to the western part of the country.
The newspaper displayed photographs of veteran trio Rudy Gobert, Nicolas Batum, and Nando de Colo along with national team newcomer Petr Cornelie, head coach Vincent Collet and national team assistant, Ruddy Nelhomme.
EN IMAGES. Basket JO : ils sont passés dans l’Ouest et ils sont médaillés d’argent https://t.co/jp6dg4NwFY— Ouest-France Sports (@sports_ouest) August 9, 2021
Garnier, meanwhile, spoke of her elation after the team's bronze medal success and also talked about the relief all of the players felt after just missing out on the podium in Rio de Janeiro five years ago.
"What moves me is seeing everyone's tears. It has been such a relief," she said in Bebasket.
🇫🇷🥉Valérie Garnier : "Toutes les joueuses étaient à l'unisson pour aller chercher cette victoire"— BeBasket (@Be_BasketFr) August 7, 2021
👉 Sixième médaille internationale depuis son arrivée à la tête des Bleues. Va-t-elle être maintenue à son poste jusqu'aux JO 2024 ?
Garnier was also asked about her future with the national team. France were excellent at the FIBA Women's EuroBasket before trailing by as many as 18 points in the Final to Serbia and falling, 63-54.
The team rebounded from an opening day 74-70 setback to Japan at the Olympics and defeated European rivals Spain in the Quarter-Finals, 67-64, only to then crash to a heavy defeat to the Japanese, 87-71. They trailed by as many as 27 points in that setback. France then rallied and beat the team that denied them the EuroBasket title, Serbia.
"My future, I haven't even thought about it," Garnier said. "I'm savoring the present moment. I will certainly discuss this with my leaders at some point. I'll first go back to my little village in the Var, by the sea, to recharge my batteries. a little. I need a rest. "
French paper L'Équipe highlighted comments by Gabby Williams, a newcomer to the team this year who helped the women get to the podium at two events. Williams was born in America but her mother, Therese, is French.
🇫🇷 LE BRONZE OLYMPIQUE 🥉— Equipe France (@EquipeFRA) August 7, 2021
Au pied du podium à Rio, nos Bleues étaient restées sur leur faim. Aujourd'hui face aux Serbes, elles ont pris une belle revanche !
2 médailles pour le basket tricolore aujourd'hui 💥#AllezLesBleus #Tokyo2020 pic.twitter.com/hjuCpHamP9
"I grew up in the United States, but I am French, like my mother, and I am proud to be," Williams said. "It's amazing to her; I know she's crying. I can't wait to call her." Williams still has family in France.
Ouest France also carried a longform interview with Nando de Colo, one of the French heroes. De Colo had mixed feelings, believing the team could have done more yet also had a sense of satisfaction after finishing runners-up.
"In the end, you have to be happy with what you did," De Colo said. "There is a lot of disappointment because we expected better, but with the medal around the neck, obviously there will be another feeling."