• Sports

Yvette Lambin-Berti: “There is no easy way for the Olympic Games”

9 July 2020 - 10h18

One year before the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, which will finally take place from July 23rd to August 8th, 2021, the Secretary-General of the Monegasque Olympic Committee (COM), also Monaco’s ambassador to Unesco, reviewed the qualification conditions for this deadline. She shared the list of athletes who are likely to qualify, before returning more generally to the country’s sports policy, which was put in place to give its athletes the best chance of performing at the highest level.

Located on the top floor of the Louis II stadium, the Monegasque Olympic Committee, which joined the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1908, solemnly asserts the importance of its mission. Official flags and framed photos representing the various sports delegations over the years proudly decorate the hall and thus bear witness to the Principality’s Olympic activity. “The sports policy of a country is built with a set of determining factors for results. We are a small country with a smaller recruitment pool of Monegasque athletes,” recalls Yvette Lambin-Berti. Well aware that by its size, its breeding ground for high-level athletes would in fact be smaller, the Principality did not skimp on the means to give a real chance to all. “It is with this in mind that the government has put in place the conditions up to par with adequate sports facilities, the construction of gymnasiums and school swimming pools, qualified supervisory staff and coaches and a policy of practice from the outset. young age in clubs and federations of the Principality, all disciplines combined,” summarizes the Secretary-General of the COM.

Sport in the politics of the country

In addition to the sports sector present from college with almost 8 hours of sports weekly, the Sport Elite classes were created in 2014 to allow young people to follow a double project, thus arranging their courses in parallel to the weekly sports 20 hours. Still with the aim of “creating a certain emulation and pulling up the Principality’s clubs”, it has also been defined since 1987 that athletes from neighbouring municipalities are eligible to participate in the Games of Small States (JPEE) given the number of nationals. Article 4.1 of the JPEE technical regulations states that “the Games are open to all nationals of member countries. Are assimilated to the nationals, all the people who reside in the country or, for Monaco, in the country or the neighbouring municipalities, that is to say Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, Beausoleil, La Turbie and Cap d’Ail, since at least three years without interruption on the date of the Games.” But there are other Games looming on the horizon by 2021.

The Olympic Games, “a difficult path”

A true Holy Grail, Olympic qualification is often the ultimate goal of any athlete. If “the federation and the COM ensure that all the conditions are given to go to the end”, the commitment of the athlete remains a paramount criterion. Yvette Lambin-Berti warns: “The path to qualifying for the Olympic Games is difficult and very serious. There is no easy way, the athlete must be aware of this.” She obviously evokes the classic qualification process. “There are essential, mandatory steps to qualify. For example, it is not possible to stand for the Olympic Games without having participated in the previous year at the world championships. Depending on the sport, these qualification stages are of course different. Each international federation determines the official events and establishes either the times to be achieved, the points to be accumulated, the rankings or the number of fights to be won,” she explains.

Seven Monegasques on Olympic qualification list

However, other means remain to participate in the Olympic Games. “Then there are the invitations, called wild cards, issued according to sports disciplines with a different quota, some sports not benefiting at all. These invitations are drawn up by a tripartite commission which includes representatives of international federations, Olympic committees and the IOC,” explains Yvette Lambin-Berti. She adds: “In Monaco, we were asked to draw up a list of our athletes who could benefit if they did not qualify for the classic circuit.” Quentin Antognelli (rowing), Hugo Micallef (boxing), Kevin Crovetto (artistic gymnastics), Cédric Bessi and Yann Siccardi (judo), Lucas Catarina (tennis) and Xiaoxin Yang (table tennis) are currently on this list. If they are seven for six disciplines, “the surprise could be created in cycling or other sports”, nuances nevertheless the general secretary of the COM.

Wild cards and universality

If this allocation of wild cards can only be made at the last moment, in June 2021, it is not due. “Compared to the Tokyo Games, there are already a large number of qualified athletes in many countries and this additional year will give a chance to those who were not yet, so there will be a lot of athletes . You also have to keep in mind that the international level is increasingly high,” she explains. Finally, there is the framework of universality. If no athlete from a country is qualified, the latter may be invited to send a representative to the Olympic Games and thus avoid its absence. “The country can send a girl and a boy, thanks to two invitations that are awarded in athletics and swimming,” says Yvette Lambin-Berti. Referring to the Prince’s speech in Seoul on merit, she insisted, however: “Going to the Olympic Games shouln’t be tarnished.”

Monaco and the Olympic Games, a rich history

Thus, in Monaco, each athlete is scrupulously followed in their sports career in order to give them every chance of success. This explains why the Principality is frequently represented at the Summer and Winter Olympics. “We had regular delegations because it was built. Our athletes are credible and get results,” said the COM Secretary-General . Since its first Olympic Games in Antwerp in 1920, Monaco has participated in 30 Olympic editions sending 151 Monegasques to defend their colours in 14 disciplines, with a strong representation of shooting over the years. In Rome in 1960, 14 athletes participated in the trip! And more recently in London, in 2012, there were six in as many disciplines. Despite an uncertain global health context, Monaco intends to send a delegation for Tokyo 2020. “During the deconfinement, we, in connection with the federations, anticipated with the government so that the athletes registered on the list resume training as a priority. Two months off is terrible for the athletes,” acknowledges Yvette Lambin-Berti. But nothing is impossible. As long as the flame animates them.


© Stéphan Maggi / COM

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