May 1 - France and Japan's athletics athletics federations have signed a bilateral partnership agreement to try to raise standards in the build-up to the Rio 2016 Olympics.
The agreement was officially signed in Tokyo today by Yohei Kono, President of the Japan Association of Athletics Federations, and Pierre Weiss, vice-president of the French Athletic Federation.
Under the agreement, the two countries pleged to share information and data on athlete development, organse events and joint training sessions, share training camps and also promote exchanges of coaches and junior athletes.
Both countries are sponsored by Asics, the Japanese kit manufacturer.
As part of the agreement, French athletes will be able to train in Japan ahead of the 2015 International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Championships in Beijing.
"For us, France is a perfect partner as French men excel in the 100 and 200 metres sprints," said Kono, a reference French sprinter Christophe Lemaitre's performance in 2010 when he became the first white sprinter a sub-10 second 100m.
Kono praised the French Federation's "excellent athlete development," citing Renaud Lavillenie, who won the men's pole vault gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics.
France finished ninth equal overall in the medals table at London 2012, thanks to Lavillenie's victory and the silver won by Mahiedine Benabbad in the 3,000m steeplecahse, while Japan were 33rd equal, winning only a bronze medal, Koji Murofushi in the hammer.
Mitsugi Ogata, senior managing director of the Japanese Federation, said Japan should take the opportunity to learn a lot from this partnership with France.
"Frankly speaking, Japan's levels are quite low," he said.
"We will count on French help first of all and eventually catch up with them to build an equal partnership," he said.
The French, meanwhile, are hoping to tap into Japan's expertise in distance running.
"There is a lot to learn from Japanese athletes, especially marathon runners whose levels are extremely high," said Weiss.
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