When you are 20 years old and practice the decathlon, what better guide than Kevin Mayer, world champion, double Olympic vice-champion and world record holder in the specialty? This is the chance of Baptiste Thiery, 21, and Téo Bastien, 19, both from Reunion Island and who will carefully watch their eldest (30) try to conquer a second world crown on Saturday July 23 and Sunday July 24 in Eugene (Oregon).
The first, who is also a pole vault specialist, has just, in the absence of the big boss, won his first national title in the decathlon in Caen (7,966 points). The second is already a European bronze medalist in the junior category in 2021. And he broke his personal best this year, with a total of 7,892 points.
Great hopes of the French decathlon, they do not yet have the level to participate in the Worlds (a minimum of 8,350 points achieved in competition is required), or in the European championships scheduled for August (8,100 points). “They have to keep working and realize the issues to keep evolving.notes Kevin Mayer. This is the difficult moment. When you reach 7,900-8,000 points, how do you pass the level necessary to reach the 8,500 points which allow you to participate in the major championships? »
With his arm’s length track record, his world record at 9,126 points – a Herculean performance – the Drômois knows what he’s talking about. “You have to start seeing the decathlon as ten specialist disciplines. It was from that moment that I took a huge leap”he recalls.
Lavillenie and Mayer, « two sources of inspiration »
Failing to be able to participate today by its performances in major international competitions, the young guard of the French decathlon, for whom « the » meeting is in 2024 on the occasion of the Olympic Games in Paris, has seen offer a nice spotlight, on June 18, during the Paris meeting, stage of the Diamond League.
Thanks to the will and standing of Kevin Mayer, the organizers set up a triathlon (shot put, long jump and 110 m hurdles), which was not on the official program. But who offered a dream opportunity to Téo Bastien and others like Makenson Gletty (23) or Arthur Prevost (24) to experience the atmosphere of such a meeting. Baptiste Thiery lined up for him in the pole vault, where he broke his record with a bar at 5.65 meters.
“I am lucky in my two events, pole vault and decathlon, to have, on the one hand, Renaud [Lavillenie] and, on the other, Kevin [Mayer]rejoices Baptiste Thiery. They are really two sources of inspiration. Being able to do competitions where we are in a fight with Kevin, it makes us feel that we are progressing. It’s super rewarding. »
« When someone from his country manages to perform at this level and to last over time, it comforts and reassures, it allows you to get started without asking too many questions »adds Téo Bastien.
“It was impressive and intimidating at first”
On June 5, during a decathlon in Montpellier, Kevin Mayer’s stronghold, Baptiste Thiery had already had the joy of seeing the world record holder come and test himself in the pole vault event. He had also met him last winter during a training course for the collective of combined events in Reunion. Like Téo Bastien, who keeps a vivid memory of it: “It was impressive and intimidating at first. But he put me at easehe recalls. This allowed me to discuss decathlon events, nutrition issues or his way of approaching competition. »
The licensee from Arras (Pas-de-Calais) details a point that impressed him: “On D-Day, he manages to transcend himself. He explained to me what he felt inside. How he plays on the breath. When it comes from him, we try to reproduce it. » Baptiste Thiery, new champion of France, confirms: “He is someone who is quite open, especially with the younger generations, because he really has a key word, which is to share his sport. »
Kevin Mayer assumes “this role of ambassador of his sport. » He takes pleasure in it and does not see this succession as a threat. “Competition has always been healthy in the decathlon, even internationally. I am not conservative of my world records, of my prestigehe says. And if they have to pass me, there’s no problem. I’m not rocket science, but if I’m asked for advice, I’m very happy to give it. »
Ambition is not yet so strong among young decathletes. The crime of lèse-majesté is not for now. « Beating the French record, which is the world record, is very complicated, not to say impossible.jokes Téo Bastien. But we want to take up the torch. Keeping France at the top level would be a source of pride. »
In the meantime, it still rests on the 30-year-old Kevin Mayer, who will have the difficult task during a decathlon of the world championships which promises to be very competitive.