Tokyo (AFP)

The French canoe-kayak sprint team's ambition during the Olympic events which start on Monday in Tokyo is to win, as at the 2016 Olympics, a medal, that won in Rio by Maxime Beaumont, Olympic vice-champion over 200 m in single-seater kayak.

For Maxime Beaumont, the years have no hold on his body, his motivation and his desire: "My goal is to take it up a notch and become Olympic champion", explains the 39-year-old Northerner, who recognizes having experienced a "difficult" start to the season.

"I am 39 years old, I am beginning to feel the weight of the years, but the desire is intact, I still have my youthful ardor," he assured Saturday.

Main rival to beat: Briton Liam Heath who had beaten him in Rio.

For Maxime Beaumont, the Olympic meeting is the ideal moment to publicize his sport, which he compares to "athletics, but on the water".

"There are eight lanes and eight athletes who want to finish first (...) We are on paddling frequencies of 160 strokes per minute, or almost three strokes per second, so it is sure that if we miss it one, we are in great difficulty on the race, "recalls the 2015 world champion.

These Tokyo Olympics, postponed for a year due to the pandemic, are played out under special conditions for sprinters, on the "Sea Forest Canal", located on the seafront and protected by shock absorbers. waves and two dams.

"It is very exposed to the wind and it is salt water, therefore more buoyant at the level of the hulls", warns Beaumont.

- Make "a big race" -

He is not the only Blue to be able to aim for a podium in a discipline dominated by the Germans, Hungarians or New Zealanders among women: for Adrien Bart, bronze medalist of the Worlds-2019 and 9th of the Rio Olympics in C1- 1000 m, anything is possible because of the disturbances linked to the pandemic: "there will be no favorite at the start"

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"A gold medal would be the best!", Adds Jean-Pascal Crochet, the boss of the France team.

"The sprint is a discipline which brings back a medal every two Olympiads, the idea is to break this cycle", also with the idea of ​​preparing as well as possible for the Paris Olympics, explains Ludovic Royé, national technical director of the French federation of canoeing and kayaking.

New in Tokyo, there will be as many events for women as for men.

In two-seater kayaking, over 500 m, Manon Hostens and Sarah Guyot are 2018 European champions and want to do "a big race": "We have found this symbiosis and this connection and when we really manage to put it in place, we feel that there is a great glide and a lot of power ", explains Manon Hostens.

Guillaume Burger, who had won an Olympic quota in K1 1000 m, but was deprived of it by the International Federation by mistake, will be aligned in a two-seater kayak (K2) with Etienne Hubert over 1000 meters.

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