Rohler leading Germany’s title bid in Lille – and looking forward to Berlin 2018

Lille press conference (1)
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European Athletics President Svein Arne Hansen was present as the press conference ahead of the start of the European Athletics Team Championships Super League in Lille Metropole

Thomas Rohler, who began his season by going to second on the all-time javelin lists with 93.90m at the IAAF Diamond League in Doha, is part of a strong German team at the European Athletics Team Championships Super League in Lille Metropole seeking to regain the team title they won in Braunschweig in 2014. 

The Olympic champion is also looking forward eagerly to next year’s European Championships taking place in Berlin as part of a multi-sport event that will see six other sports hold their own continental championships in Glasgow. 

“The European Championships 2018 are really, really important for all of us,” he said in today’s press conference at the Lille Metropolitan Stadium where the event will start later in the day. 

“It will mean international recognition, and this is what I love. We are going to have a new format, and I like the idea of something that looks like a small Olympics. I think sports need to come together in this way.” 

  

Svein Arne Hansen, the European Athletics President, commented: “When you come to Lille you see the flags flying everywhere and you see it is really supporting European Athletics and that makes me as President very proud. We have many stars taking part this weekend.

“I was involved in organising the 2010 version of these championships in Bergen and I believe strongly in this competition. It is a great way of offering competition to athletes who don’t usually get to match themselves against the very best. 

“We have around 50 countries involved in our Leagues. Five or six of the big ones have athletes who are competing all the time. But the other 45 are often struggling to get competition, and for them the European Athletics Team Championships are the most important competition.”

Dany Wattebled, Vice President of Metropolitan Lille (MEL), added: “Lille has experience of staging so many sporting events, such as the Tennis Open du Nord, and the European Basketball Championships, so we will make sure the athletes will have the best conditions possible to compete. We have already lowered the temperature, and we will make an effort with the wind!” 

Andre Giraud, President of the French Athletics Federation (FFA) said that more than 60 per cent of tickets had already been sold, and there was the expectation that more spectators would come and appreciate the events given the good weather. 

“We have four Leagues competing throughout Europe this weekend,” said Christian Milz, the European Athletics Chief Executive. “It is a key event for us in athletics, a unique event where we want to showcase and promote different values. The championships are about solidarity, about social interaction, and team performances being more important than individual performances.

“There has been some innovation this year - we will start tonight with heats for the sprints and hurdles and go for a shorter, more compact Diamond League-type programme this weekend, with only finals except for heats of the relays. 

“We will not stop here. We are going to think about other competitions after the event this weekend, to think about how we can make this event even more attractive and bring more interest to the fans. The intention is to discuss this at the next Council Meeting. 

“More than 1000 athletes and team officials will be involved in these championships. We have a total of 2500 accreditations, and there are 350 volunteers. 

“In terms of TV coverage we are going to receive 76 hours live coverage across the continent, and in total 81 hours of highlights. Ten international broadcasters have confirmed they will be showing our championships in their entirety. 

“There will also be the opportunity to watch live streaming of the event on our website, with English commentary.” 

Britain’s 2016 European long jump silver medallist Jazmin Sawyers, a talented singer and musician who appeared on the BBC’s The Voice this year, is very clear where her priorities lie right now. 

“At the moment everything is focused on getting to the London World Championships,” she said. “I will be picking back up with music at end of the season but right now everything is focused absolutely on the long jump, even though I am still playing music to relax.” 

 

France’s 37-year-old long jumper Kafetien Gomis, a Rio 2016 finalist and two-time European medallist, competes for local club Lille Metropolitan Athletisme. “I have been in many French teams over the years, and there is a fantastic atmosphere ahead of these championships,” he said. “I started here, trained here, and now I am here representing France in front of my friends and family. It is very exciting.” 

His teammate Melina Robert-Michon, the Olympic discus silver medallist, will be seeking a fourth consecutive win in these championships. “Of course, there is more pressure competing at home, but I think of it as a big plus for our team,” she said. 

Meanwhile Jessica Cerival is also looking forward to getting the best out of herself here in French colours after setting an indoor season's best at the European Indoor Championships in Belgrade and an outdoor season's best at the European Winter Throws Cup in Las Palmas.

“I am no fortune teller, but I hope I will break my record again person at home, and in the blue of France.”

Cerival will be on her guard if the French ambitions here are realised. At the last European Athletics Team Championships at Cheboksary, Russia in 2015, when the team reached the podium in third place, world pole vaulter record-holder Renaud Lavillenie celebrated by throwing her into the water jump…