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Most famous French sport professionals – Part III

FORMULA ONE

  • Alain Prost:

Alain Prost famous Formula One driver

Alain Prost (left) with Ayrton Senna.

Alain Prost is a famous retired French racing driver. He is a four-time Formula One Drivers’ Champion, only Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher have won more titles than Prost. From 1987 until 2001 Prost held the record for most Grand Prix victories. Schumacher surpassed Prost’s total of 51 victories at the 2001 Belgian Grand Prix. In 1999, Prost received the World Sports Awards of the Century in the motor sport category.

During the late 1980s and early 1990s, Prost formed a fierce rivalry with Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell. Senna joined Prost at McLaren in 1988 and the two had a series of controversial clashes, including a collision at the 1989 Japanese Grand Prix that gave Prost his third Drivers’ Championship. A year later at the same venue they collided again, but this time Prost, driving for Ferrari, lost out. Before the end of a winless 1991 season Prost was fired by Ferrari for his public criticism of the team. After a sabbatical year in 1992, Prost joined the Williams team, prompting reigning drivers’ champion Mansell to leave for CART. With a competitive car, Prost won the 1993 championship but he retired at the end of the year rather than being teammates with Senna who signed for 1994.

He was nicknamed ‘The Professor’ for his intellectual approach to racing and for his high knowledge of mechanics.

Motor sport journalist Denis Jenkinson described Prost as “a very warm and uncomplicated man who doesn’t rely on passion or inspiration. Nor does he indulge in showmanship or bullshit. He is capable of a level of mental discipline beyond the comprehension of most people.”

On 1st May 1994, Ayrton Senna was killed at the San Marino Grand Prix, in Italy. When Senna died, Prost stated that “a part of himself had died also”, because their careers had been so bound together.

Senna had also felt the same when Prost retired at the end of 1993, when he admitted to a close friend that he had realised how much of his motivation had come from fighting with Prost. At Prost’s last Grand Prix, the 1993 Australian Grand Prix, Senna pulled Prost up onto the top step of the podium for an embrace.

Only a couple of days before his death, when filming an in-car lap of Imola for French television channel TF1, he greeted Prost: “A special hello to my dear friend Alain — we all miss you Alain”. Prost said that he was touched by Senna’s words. A few minutes before Senna’s death, Prost went to meet him on the track, shook his hand and wished him good luck for the race.

Prost, who was a commentator for the French television channel “TF1” said a few minutes before Senna’s accident that a very big accident was going to happen…as if both of them -Senna and Prost- could feel that Senna’s death was imminent.

After Senna’s death, Prost always claimed that a pilot as great as Senna could not have made a mistake in the Tamburello’s bend. He stated multiple times that Senna’s death had been caused by a mechanical problem, which turned out to be true when we came to know that the steering column broke, causing the fatal accident.

Here is a very interesting video (English subtitles): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AKKgrMROP7s

Alain Prost tells how Senna was behaving differently a few months before his death…

RALLY

  • Sébastien Loeb (born on February 26th, 1974) is a French rally driver and winner, with co-driver Daniel Elena, of the World Rally Championship drivers’ title in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008. He also has a record of ten world rallies in 2005 and 2008, all, except for 2006, with the Citroën Total World Rally Team. Loeb has the most WRC wins with 46 and is the most successful rally driver of all times.

Sébastien Loeb famous French rally driver

Loeb is also a two-time winner at the Race of Champions, after taking home the Henri Toivonen Memorial Trophy and the title “Champion of Champions” in 2003 and 2005. In 2004, he won the Nations’ Cup for France with Jean Alesi.

Before becoming a rally driver, Sébastien Loeb competed as a gymnast and became 4 times Alsatian champion, once champion of the French Grand East, and 5th in the French Championship.

In 2004, Loeb dominated the WRC scene by winning six events and earning many podium finishes in other events to securely give him the driver’s title. He was also responsible for Citroën’s second manufacturer’s title in a row.

Originally known as a tarmac specialist, 2004 was the year he proved to the world he could do it all. He won the Uddeholm Swedish Rally, becoming the first non-Nordic to win the event. He also won many gravel and tarmac rallies such as Telstra Rally Australia and Rallye Automobile Monte Carlo. Loeb’s six WRC victories tied the record for victories in one season with fellow Frenchman Didier Auriol, who won six events in 1990.

Sébastien Loeb famous French rally driver

FENCING

  • Laura Flessel (born on November 6th, 1971 in Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe) is a French épée fencer. She is a six times world champion, a two times Olympic champion and a one time European champion.

Laura Flessel famous French épée fencer

Olympic Games:

Gold Medal in individual épée in 1996
Gold Medal in team épée in 1996
Silver Medal in individual épée in 2004
Bronze Medal in individual épée in 2000
Bronze Medal in team épée in 2004

World Championship:

Gold Medal in individual épée in 1998
Gold Medal in team épée in 1998
Gold Medal in individual épée in 1999
Gold Medal in team épée in 2005
Gold Medal in team épée in 2007
Gold Medal in team épée in 2008
Silver Medal in team épée in 1995
Silver Medal in individual épée in 2001
Silver Medal in team épée in 2006
Bronze Medal in individual épée in 1995
Bronze Medal in team épée in 1997
Bronze Medal in individual épée in 2005
Bronze Medal in individual épée in 2006

World Cup Fencing:

World Cup winner individual épée in 2002 and 2003
World Cup runner-up individual épée in 1997

European Fencing Championship:

Gold Medal in individual épée in 2007
Bronze Medal in team épée in 2007

France Championship:

French champion in 1998, 2000, 2002, 2003 and 2007.

Team winners in 1993, 1995, 1996, 1999, 2003 and 2004.

HANDBALL

  • Jackson Richardson is a retired French handball player. As the captain of the French handball team, he was the flag carrier during the Olympic Games opening ceremony in Athens on August 13th, 2004.

Jackson Richardson famous French handball player

Honours:

2 World Championships (1995, 2001)
1 EHF Champions League (2001 with Portland San Antonio)
2 European Cup Winners’ Cups (1993 with OM Vitrolles, 2004 with Portland San Antonio)
1 Europe Supercup (2000 with Portland San Antonio)
1 European Cities Cup (2000 with TV Großwallstadt)
2 French Leagues (1994, 1996)
2 Spanish Leagues (2003, 2005)
2 Coupes de France (1993, 1995)
1 Copa del Rey (2001)
2 Spanish Supercups (2001, 2002)

Bronze medal in the Olympic Games (1992)
Silver medal in the World Championship (1993)
Bronze medal in the World Championship (1997, 2003, 2005)

Champions League final (2003)

IHF World Player of the Year (1995)
MVP of the World Championship (1990)
Best playmaker of the World Championship (1995)
Best playmaker of the European Championship (2000)
Best foreign player of the Spanish League (2001, 2002)
Best playmaker of the Spanish League (2003, 2004, 2005)

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