Shi Zhiyong, right, gives advice to the French team during a training camp in China ©CWA

The French national weightlifting team has returned from a successful training camp in China which its performance director Arnaud Ferrari believes will act as "a springboard" towards winning at least one "home" medal at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

Seven French athletes and four coaches and support personnel spent three weeks learning from the world’s strongest weightlifting team at the Wuzhishan Training Base in the southern province of Hainan.

Ferrari said the visit had been years in the planning.

"This idea has grown up after the Olympic Games of Beijing 2008 when Vencelas Dabaya won the silver medal in the 69 kilograms class," he said.

Dabaya, a world champion in 2006, is now assistant coach at the French Weightlifting Federation (FFHM).

At last year’s International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) World Championships in Colombia Dabaya helped Romain Imadouchene to become France’s first gold medallist at that level since his own 2006 win.

Imadouchene, who had been suffering with a knee injury, finished fourth on total but celebrated wildly after taking the clean and jerk gold at 96kg with a lift of 213kg.

Imadouchene and Dora Tchakounté, who was fourth at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at 59kg, are among France’s top hopes for Paris.

"After the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021, where Dora Tchakounté was only one kilogram away from the bronze medal, we said together with our staff - Franz Felicite and Vencelas Dabaya - never again do we fail so close to the Olympic medal," Ferrari explained.

"As the host country, our goal is to win at least one medal at Paris 2024.

France and China's teams line up at the training centre in Wuzhishan ©CWA
France and China's teams line up at the training centre in Wuzhishan ©CWA

"When we considered what we must improve in our performance system and how we can help our lifters to learn of winning, we immediately thought we must go to share a training camp with the Olympic team of China.

"But at the beginning, we didn’t know if it was possible, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic."

A key moment came when the European Weightlifting Federation (EWF) organised a seminar with the Chinese Weightlifting Association (CWA) in November 2021 in which France participated.

During the online event, the CWA said they would welcome foreign teams, and the FFHM sent an email proposing a two-way training camp, first in China and then, nearer Paris 2024, in France.

Meng Bo, the CWA’s international relations director, contacted Ferrari to propose a training camp in Wuzhishan City with China’s Olympic team.

With support from the French Embassy in China, the FFHM was able to send a team to China last month.

"This training camp is a complete success for us because we have shared a lot with Team China," Ferrari said.

"We had the chance to live a total immersion in the daily life of the best team in the world.

"There were many shares between athletes, technical staff and medical staff and we have learned a lot there.

Dora Tchakounté, who finished fourth in Tokyo, trains in China ©CWA
Dora Tchakounté, who finished fourth in Tokyo, trains in China ©CWA

"For example, Shi Zhiyong did a specific course for us to share his technical skills and advised us on how to improve the snatch.

"Li Fabin has shared with our athletes about his experience of being an Olympic champion."

Shi and Li won gold in Tokyo at 73kg and 61kg respectively and China finished with a record haul of seven golds and one silver.

"We believe that this training camp is the springboard that will lead us to the Olympic podium at Paris 2024," Ferrari said.

"We thank China a lot and we are impatient to host them in Paris to extend our collaboration."

France had also attended a training camp in Shenzhen back in 2010, Ferrari said, but that was not with China’s national team.

"Since that time, we still thought that we need to come again so our lifters and staff could learn more," he said.

The FFHM intends to reciprocate by hosting Team China for a training camp before Paris 2024, where weightlifting competition is due to take place from August 7 to 11 next year.