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It's all in the mind for the French with no fear

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These are heady days for French athletics and on Sunday afternoon in Braunschweig they could become even better on the second afternoon of the European Athletics Team Championships.

The French have never finished higher than fourth in this competition, but overnight they sit third in the table with 161 points, just ahead of Great Britain and with another strong afternoon ahead for them led by pole vault world record holder Renaud Lavillenie.

While it will take something special to catch the top two - Germany, the host nation, lead with 195 followed by defending champions Russia with 192 - it will be an impressive performance to end the weekend in third with a team which seems to be inspired by each other.

France were top on seven occasions on Saturday and it was the first of those wins which gave an insight into why their athletes, competing either here as a team or individually on the world stage, are catching the eye.

Is it just a general progression, is it a group of superb competitors all peaking at the same moment or is it something else?

Myriam Soumare, who won the 100m in 11.35, would go for third of those reasons.

'It is the mind,' said Soumare, raising the first finger on her right hand to her temple as she chatted after her victory.

'We want to win and we are not afraid of anyone. We know we can do our best.'

Now that is some attitude to have, because overcoming the fear factor that can arise from wondering how good your rivals might be or how you will react to the noise in the stadium can be a hindrance to even the best of athletes.

Soumare will be among the main names for a medal at the European Athletics Championships in Zurich and let us not forget that athletes who triumph at these team championships have a habit of doing well at the major event of the summer which follows.

It is a year, of course, that started in brilliant fashion for France as Lavillenie broke the pole vault World record in February. His presence here on Sunday should bring the team another 12 points as should Pascal Martinot-Lagarde, the World No 1, in the 110m hurdles and Eloyse Lesueur, the World Indoor and European long jump champion.

The signs are good for a third place for France, who have been fourth at the European Athletics Team Championships in Lieria in 2009, Bergen in 2010 and Gateshead last year, with Stockholm in 2011 seeing them drop down to fifth.

Jimmy Vicaut made it a 100m double here as he won in 10.03 but limped away, yet his 400m teammate Mame-Ibra Anne would have stayed all day talking such was his enthusiasm after he came battling through to win in 45.71, beating Russia's Pavel Ivashko in 45.95.

And what did Anne do when he was asked the secret of France's success? Incredibly, like Soumare, he too touched the side of his head to stress the mental side of getting it right.

He said: 'I followed my strategy which was to start well and then to finish strong. I am happy.'

Then there was victory for World silver medallist Melina Robert-Michon, with a season's best of 65.51m in the discus. She was France's fourth winner of day one as the team set themselves up for what is becoming a weekend to remember for their team.

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