Volleyball Olympic Games Paris 2024 - News

Lega Article ANTOINE

Two and a half years ago, French volleyball changed for good. Long seen as an outsider in most major international tournaments, the country’s men’s national team shocked the world by taking gold at the Tokyo Olympics and definitely earned its place among the elite of the sport.

The golden generation of Earvin Ngapeth, Antoine Brizard, Jean Patry, Jenia Grebennikov and Barthélémy Chinenyeze had given signs of greatness a few weeks before the Games, taking bronze at the Volleyball Nations League 2021, but even they were impressed with their victory in the Japanese capital.

“Going into the Olympics, we thought about winning a medal, but we didn’t expect gold,” setter Brizard recalled in an exclusive interview with VBTV. “We played really well in the VNL before the Olympics and that made us believe that we could achieve something good in Tokyo, but winning was a different story. It’s a feeling I never expected I could have, I can’t even explain it. It changed my life. I feel that each of us who were in Tokyo, we’re all connected as Olympic champions.”

  • Watch Antoine Brizard’s full interview for free on VBTV.

In just over six months, France will be a position to write perhaps an even more special chapter in their volleyball history as they play the Olympics at home, in Paris. Winning back-to-back titles, with the second of them in front of their home fans, would be a major milestone in volleyball history.

The first national team to confirm its presence in the Paris Games as the host country, the French have spent each day since their victory in Tokyo preparing to deliver this summer.

“Hosting the Olympics, it’s a gift,” Brizard added. “It’s amazing for us to be in the prime of our careers and get to play the Olympic Games at home. It took a full century for the Olympics to return to France and we can see in the country that something special is happening in the sports’ world. Being part of it as an athlete is incredible and we want to do well.”

This time, however, the Bleus will no longer enter the tournament as dark horses, instead being among the favorites and also having to deal with the added pressure of playing in front of their home fans, who will expect nothing less than another victory.

“It’s extra pressure because we have to assume this title, but at the same time, we got to see the growth of volleyball in France when we played at home in the VNL and that was really cool,” Brizard explained. “The gym was full and it didn’t use to be like that before.”

Inspired by the Tokyo medal

As if trying to defend the title won in Tokyo three years ago and playing at home wasn’t motivation enough, Brizard has another source of inspiration as he prepares to take France to the top of the podium again next summer.

The setter, who plays in Italy with Gas Sales Bluenergy Piacenza, has taken the Tokyo gold medal to his new home and uses it as another way to connect past and future as he chases the dream of celebrating another Olympic title in Paris.

“I like to have the medal with me,” he said. “It reminds me how well we can play as a team and also how hard it was to win it. It gives me confidence and also the wish to win another one. Having another gold medal would be cool.”