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‘We Will Fight In Any Circumstances,’ Says French Coach
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French coach Eric Hagard told IG that his team and its individual gymnasts, including 2019 European all-around champion Melanie De Jesus Dos Santos, have strong chances and high expectations for medals at the 2019 World Championships that begin October 4th in Stuttgart, Germany.

“The team is ready for Worlds, and we expect Olympic qualification,” he said. “We will have a last training camp in Paris just before our departure for Germany. The team spirit is strong and all the girls are determined, as is the coaching staff.”

Aiming for one of nine team berths to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games that are available in Stuttgart, the French squad for Worlds includes De Jesus Dos Santos, two-time European balance beam medalist and ’16 Olympic balance beam finalist Marine Boyer, ’19 European balance beam bronze medalist Lorette Charpy and Aline Friess.

The fifth designated starter, 2017 European vault champion and ’19 European vault silver medalist Coline Devillard, withdrew due to an ankle injury. “We will replace her with one of the young gymnasts who were alternates on the roster,” Hagard said.

France placed fifth in the team final at the 2018 Worlds in Doha, where the top three teams earned berths to Tokyo, but Hagard said his team has medal-winning potential in Stuttgart.

“Of course, the race for the team podium is going to be very exciting, because a few nations will be able to reach those steps,” said Hagard, who with his wife, Monique Hagard, coaches De Jesus Dos Santos, Charpy and Friess. “The U.S. and Simone Biles are unbeatable today, China seems to have a very good chance to climb onto the podium, and the bronze is open.”

Hagard cites Russia, Italy and Great Britain among the top teams capable of a medal in Stuttgart.

“Russia was third in Doha and is a serious contender, with experienced and talented gymnasts with numerous awards all around the world,” he said. “Italy is also a serious threat with its ‘Magic Four’ newcomers born in 2003 who are such excellent all-arounders, able to produce clean and precise routines on each apparatus. Great Britain has also a very good team, with the double Downies (Ellie and Becky).”

Hagard is confident in his own team’s medal hopefuls, though. Foremost among them is De Jesus Dos Santos, who placed fifth all-around at the 2017 Worlds in Montreal and sixth all-around at the 2018 Worlds.

“Melanie is the leader of the French team, and her last competition in Paris (Challenge Cup, September 14-15) was pretty good, with a gold medal on bars, which was her weakest event in the past,” Hagard said. “She worked a lot to upgrade her routine including a new connection with a Pak-full. She will also show a new floor routine based on her own musical choice. We are expecting the beam and floor finals, in order to show some enthusiastic and quality gymnastics.”

De Jesus Dos Santos has a realistic chance to challenge indomitable four-time world all-around champion Biles, Hagard said.

“Melanie is a good all-arounder and with her D-scores, she could be close to the unavoidable Queen Simone,” he said.

Hagard said that, even without Devillard’s services, France plans to perform with aggressiveness and pride. “Obviously, Coline’s injury is a big loss for the team, especially on vault, which was part of our winning strategy,” he told IG. “We will fight in any circumstances and show to the world that France is there!”

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