Pascal Mahé: “If the result is to be second or third, the objective is not achieved”

Pascal Mahe If the result is to be second or

INTERVIEW. Olympic medalist in Barcelona in 1992 with the French handball team, world champion in 1995, Pascal Mahé is one of the great players in the history of French handball.

The epic of the “Barjots” in the mid-1990s marked the beginning of the domination of French handball on the international scene, with first the third place of the “Bronzés” in Barcelona in 1992, then the title of champion of world in 1995. As part of this team, Pascal Mahé experienced the first Olympic Games of a soon-to-be hegemonic French handball team. He agreed to come back for Linternaute on this adventure and on the upcoming Games in Paris.

Linternaute – Are the Games different from another international competition, whether in the atmosphere or the stakes of the competition?

Pascal Mahé – We were already the first generation to qualify a French handball team for the Olympic Games, it was in 1992 in Barcelona. So it took on an extra dimension because we had this first-time feel, and we wanted it to be a real fireworks display, even if we didn’t know all the codes and we went there like a child who discovers the Christmas tree! We were really very happy, very ambitious and very determined to want to leave our mark on this Olympic journey. This adventure in Barcelona was an incredible sporting and human adventure which remains, for me, one of the most beautiful memories of my career because, what’s more, it ends with a medal. We are the first participation and the first medal in French handball so it was something exceptional.

For the second participation in 1996, was it different?

The French medalists in 1992. © National Library of France

It was the final competition, the end of a story for the group we started with in the 90s. For once, the mood and the atmosphere were completely different in Atlanta. It was no longer a discovery and we were expected to produce a result. We got lost in what to put into these Games to try to win the Olympic title, since a year before we were world champions so we were going there to win the gold medal.

With a strong and assumed objective, but at the sporting level and even in the relationships in the group it was difficult. We experienced complicated Games which ended in fourth place, the worst when you participate in this type of competition.

In general, handball competitions take place in winter, except for the Olympic Games. How do you approach an Olympic year in your preparation?

You approach it with relish, you know that the Games are every four years and that it is a great opportunity and a great adventure. Obviously, everything is put in place at club and Federation level to ensure that the schedule is as light as possible. It necessarily is since you add a competition but when you have the chance to participate in this type of event… Fatigue goes away afterwards. The point is to arrive in the best conditions, as least tired as possible and above all not injured in order to be able to participate and claim a medal.

“The Paris Olympics? You feel much stronger popular and family support and enthusiasm.”

What is your view on these Games in France and your expectations for handball?

Obviously it’s at home so you feel much stronger popular and family support and enthusiasm since people almost share your daily life. So do we call it pressure, positive or negative, I always thought that it was galvanizing and that it brought extra soul. For now, it remains an exceptional event that those who have the chance to participate in it will experience 100% and all the people who love them will in the same way. For me, this is an asset for handball.

The Blues have been Olympic champions three times, in the final of the last four editions, would any result other than a gold medal be a disappointment?

If the result is to be second or third, which still remains a medal, we can say that the objective has not been achieved. But if we look at it from the performance side, it remains something exceptional! It’s been almost thirty-five years since French handball has been on the podium or close to it, I know what I’m talking about since I was at the start of the adventure. When you know what it’s like to qualify for the Olympic Games, to compete for two weeks with a match every two days, there may be disappointment in not being first, but it’s still something to behold. exceptional. Even if the gold medal is not at the end, it will still remain extraordinary performances.

No one has ever won the Euro and the Games in the same year, is it a coincidence?

“I think the girls have real potential. At the moment, they are walking on water and that is very good for women’s handball. For the boys, the competition will be tough…”

For me it’s just a matter of timing, it could have been three months earlier. In any case, we will expect the French team to live up to what it has been for thirty-five years, both the boys and the girls. I think the girls have real potential. At the moment, they are walking on water and that is very good for women’s handball. For the boys, the competition is going to be tough because we are not as dominant as we were a few years ago and it will always be the same teams who will put obstacles in our way. It will surely be a matter of details, as is often the case in high-level sport: a good or bad pass, a shot on the post, or an improbable free kick on the gong!

French handball has had quite incredible continuity for thirty-five years. What is the role of youth teams and the federation in these generational renewals?

We have been working with young people since 1976 or 1977 with the creation of the first sport study. It is a sporting policy which was put in place by the federation and which obliges us to seek results. We are committed to excellence and it is a strong choice on the part of the federation. Everything that is done upstream, at the level of the poles, the clubs, the training of executives, allows us to be able to feed the elite because all this work has been put in place for many years. It would be a shame if it did not succeed, there would be questions to ask about the functioning and effectiveness of the system. In this case, we know what works and there are many other federations who envy us this system. I worked in Germany for around ten years and they would like to have the same means to operate. They do what they can to try to exist at the highest level. It is all this human, financial and structural investment that allows French handball to always be at the highest level, for boys and girls.

“Flag bearer? Whoever is one must not have a match the next day […]. That might be the case for a handball player, so just for that, I don’t want it.”

(The interview was carried out before the announcement of the candidates Editor’s note) French handball had a standard bearer in 2004 with Jackson Richardson, would you like to see a handball player take over from him?

Yes of course ! Afterwards, it’s really not the priority, if it happens, it’s obviously the icing on the cake, but there is so much at stake when you engage in this type of competition that you really have to protect. Being the one who represents French sport is very rewarding individually, now the one who will be must not have a match the next day. That might be the case for a handball player, so just for that, I don’t want it. It’s beautiful and dangerous at the same time for competition because it generates stress and a lot of responsibility. It puts you in a position of number and responsibility for the entire dynamic of French sport.

There will be a beach handball demonstration during the Games, how do you see this discipline?

It is a practice that complements handball sevens. It is a very strong communication tool, a very attractive and fun sport for the younger generations. It is no longer just a beach sport since structures are being put in place, including one of the most beautiful in France in Houlgate which will be inaugurated soon. There is a real federal desire to make up for lost time since we were seven, eight years behind other nations. There is a sporting desire assumed by the federation to develop this practice, and not only to participate but to win titles. The machine is underway, now it is up to the trainers to build competitive teams to ensure that in the coming years we can win titles at youth and senior level, for boys and girls.

Why not see him one day at the Olympics?

It’s obvious to me, there is beach volleyball, why shouldn’t there be beach handball when we know that it is spectacular, there is a lot of speed… There is everything that it takes to ensure that this sport is represented at the Olympic Games. For me it’s a question of time and it will certainly be in the next few years.