when the future glories of French sport marched to the step

Daniel Bravo (left) and OGC Nice players Bruno Bellone, here at the Bataillon de Joinville in 1980. SG / The Gym Museum

NARRATIVE – On July 14, nine medal-winning athletes marched alongside Emmanuel Macron and the Army of Champions. A symbolic image reminiscent of the Bataillon de Joinville, a military unit of the French army for renowned athletes.

A good number of French sports legends had, at the beginning of their career, to change the tracksuit for army clothes. Until 1997, when President Jacques Chirac dissolved military service, even professional athletes had to respect their military obligations.

The ancestor of INSEP

The origins of this military unit go back to 1852, when the Normal School of Military Gymnastics in Joinville opened its doors on July 15 in the Redoute de la Faisanderie, near the Bois de Vincennes, not far from the current INSEP facilities. Under the direction of Commander Charles d’Argy, aided by Napoleon Laisné, his goal was to train army sports executives and military gymnastics instructors. She is de facto the first authentic sports training school created in France.

It was necessary, therefore, that gymnastics and fencing be taught in the army, that there be a conservatory where the instructors should come to train, so that the teaching would be identical and immutable and would not vary according to the fantasies. of each.Francisco Amorós, a Spanish colonel who structured military sport in France, had written in a note at the time. Renamed the Joinville Normal School of Gymnastics and Fencing in the early 20th century, then the post-World War II physical education high school, the institute was forced to close during World War II.

The development of military sport

Although created in 1948 at the request of the National Institute of Sport created three years earlier, the Bataillon de Joinville, in the form that made it famous, was born from the association of several small units military sports in the four corners of France. For several years, the Battalion of young sports soldiers moved, first to the facilities of the Fort de Vincennes, near the castle, then to the Faisanderie before settling permanently in the Redoubt of Gravelle under the command of Colonel Billet, Lieutenant Colonel Pottier. and Commander Robert.

In 1967, the Antibes military physical training school, the shooting sports sections in Montauban, skydiving in Pau, modern pentathlon in Bordeaux and the Navy’s physical and sports training center in Toulon joined forces. with the Joinville sports group to officially create the Joint Sports School.

A long list of legends

In total, the Joinville battalion hosted 21,000 top athletes among big names like Youri Djorkaeff, Yannick Noah, Richard Virenque, Jean Galfione, Just Fontaine, Bixente Lizarazu, Henri Leconte, Alain Mosconi, Jackson Richardson, Laurent Fignon or again Emmanuel Petit. The football section is probably the one that has seen the greatest legends with Michel Platini in 1975 who represented the French army, hopeful and Olympic team during that same summer, along with other well-known names in French football such as Eric Pécout, Omar Sahnoun, Maxime Bossis. , Gilles Rampillon, Olivier Rouyer and Jean-Michel Moutier.

In 1991, it was Zinédine Zidane, then 19, who played for AS Cannes, who did military service in the Joinville battalion between June and December. He also participated in the Military World Cup where France finished at the foot of the podium. In handball, the Bataillon de Joinville even won the French championship in 1961 ahead of its Parisian runner-up, the PUC. This promotion 61 even took part in the Champions Clubs’ Cup the following year, eliminated in the quarter-finals by the Germans of the Frisch Auf Göppingen.

Rebirth in 2014 with a new name

Dissolved in 2002, the Joinville Battalion experienced redemption in 2014 thanks to the National Defense Sports Center (CNSD). A total of 88 high-level athletes hired by the army join the new Bataillon de Joinville, which brings together summer disciplines from 22 sports federations and a winter company on which the French military team depends. ski. Some athletes, including Olympic champion and judoka Clarisse Agbégnénou, a non-commissioned officer in the National Gendarmerie, continue to perpetuate the tradition of military sport, its values, its development and its success.

Located in Fontainebleau, the CNSD has been officially selected for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, where it will serve as a training center for athletes and as a reception center for certain delegations.

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