France 2021: The Olympic Team From Three Different Continents

It was recently announced that France has selected its 4-person team for the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo. Its four members are:

-Aline Friess
-Carolann Heduit
-Marine Boyer
-Melanie De Jesus Dos Santos

I love this team because all four of these gymnasts have incredible gymnastics coupled with amazing personalities. This makes it quite easy to develop an affection for them. But the geography nerd in me is going to take over and talk about another interesting dynamic regarding this team.

When you think of France, you are probably visualizing Western Europe in the same way you would visualize Germany. But like the remnants of the British Empire, France has territories scattered all across the globe. But what few may not realize, five of these regions are fully incorporated into the French Republic. Meaning, they are every bit as equally French as “European France.”

(L to R) Carolann Heduit, Marine Boyer, Melanie De Jesus Dos Santos, and Sheyen Petit
French team at the 2021 European Championships

This includes membership to the European Union, meaning you can take a long haul flight from Europe to Africa or the Caribbean without ever leaving EU soil. Hilariously, Brazil actually shares a land border with the European Union because of this.

These five regions are fully French and that particular detail is not as widely known as it should be. Overseas France accounts for roughly 3% of the national population, the same as Michigan or New Jersey compared to the rest of the United States.

That’s why I love this 2021 French Olympic team. Because 2 of 4 members come from one of these regions and the lineup you will see in Tokyo paints the country in a more accurate light. But this actually isn’t the first time overseas France has dominated an Olympic lineup in French gymnastics. During the 2000 Olympics 3 of 6 members on the women’s side were from one of these territories.

Patrice CasimirMaleReunion1992
Eric CasimirMaleReunion2000
Florent MareeMaleReunion2000
Elvire TezaFemaleReunion1996
Nelly RamassamyFemaleReunion2000
Marine BoyerFemaleReunion2016
Melanie De Jesus
Dos Santos
FemaleMartinique 2021*

What makes 2021 different is Melanie De Jesus Dos Santos who is from Martinique in the Caribbean. Previously, it was Reunion Island in Africa that has accounted for all of the success any of these five regions have enjoyed in artistic gymnastics. Even though Martinique has produced twice as many Olympians as Reunion Island, Melanie will be its very first Olympic gymnast. Meanwhile Reunion Island has accounted for:

-7 Olympic gymnasts (male and female)
-10 Olympic appearances
-3 two-time Olympians

Marine Boyer is one of those gymnasts from Reunion who has already been to the Olympics. Her arrival in Tokyo will mark the 11th time Reunion Island has had a gymnast appear in an Olympic Games. As well as the 4th gymnast from that Island who has gone to multiple Olympics.

With Melanie De Jesus Dos Santos joining her, this will be the first time ever France has had two different overseas regions represented. Melanie at her side will bring the sum total of Olympic gymnasts from overseas France to eight Olympians spanning 12 total Olympic appearances.

The inclusion of both Marine and Melanie creates an Olympic team where the gymnasts in question were from three different continents. More importantly, all of them were born French and have always lived in France.

Bonus Content:

-The distance between Martinique and Paris is 4,253 miles.

-The distance between Reunion and Paris is 5,832 miles.

-The distance between Martinique and Reunion is 8,262 Miles.

-You would have to travel 18,347 miles to conduct a round trip to all three locations.

-This is the equivalent of flying from London to New York City and back, flying from London to New York City and back for a second time, taking yet another trip from London to New York City, and then taking a plane from New York City to Florida.

Melanie De Jesus Dos Santos

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