Axel Chapelle realised a childhood dream in Eugene, listening to La Marseillaise as he stood on top of the podium at Hayward Field following his victory in the pole vault with a personal best and world junior leading height of 5.55m.
“It means a lot to me," he said. "When I was a kid, I went to the stadium almost every day to join my dad, a decathlon coach at INSEP (the French high performance institute in the south eastern suburbs of Paris). When I was eight, I attended the World Championships in Paris and I felt the excitement when I saw a French guy (Marc Raquil) winning bronze in 400m."
“I felt his emotion when he was on the podium. From there, I dreamt of becoming a world champion and listening to La Marseillaise all year round. And to finally get to this moment, it was really incredible,” said a jubilant Chapelle holding his gold medal.
The 19-year-old Colombes native congratulated his rivals in one of the highest calibre pole vault contests in the history of the IAAF World Junior Championships.
“It was really close," he said. "The guys jumped very well. When I jumped 5.55m, I did not think it would enough to win, but all the guys failed at that height and it was sufficient for gold. I expected this level of competition. It was incredible to win the final today."
Chapelle completed a superb Saturday for France as Rouguy Diallo took the triple jump gold.
They propelled Les Bleus to the third place on the medal tally, following Wilhem Belocian’s world junior record of 12.99 to take the 110m hurdles title.
“I am also happy for Rouguy," he said. "We have a great team. We support each other. We feel solidarity in the group and we have good athletes. To win two gold medals on the same day, this is super."
Rouguy produced the second-longest mark under any conditions in the history of the World Junior Championships with a windy 14.44m. She also set a French junior record with wind-legal leap of 14.20m and joined Chapelle in the celebrations.
Chapelle credited the crowd for his performance.
“I have rarely seen such a great atmosphere. The crowd was present and it was great to jump in front of them. Conditions were great. Everybody jumped well. It was an incredible experience.”
Watching from the stands was his mom Valerie. His father, Emmanuel, is the photographer for the French Athletics Federation in Eugene. “I don’t have my brother here, but we will celebrate with my parents and then we I return home,” added the European junior silver medallist, who did not qualify for the final on his World Junior Championships debut in 2012.
Axel started in athletics by following the footsteps of his bother Theo, three years his senior, who was second at the French indoor championships this winter. They both train together in the EA Cergy Pontoise Athletisme club in Paris and now have equal personal bests of 5.55m.
“At the beginning, I was doing everything, training for the decathlon, but then I was starting to do better in the pole vault,” explained Chapelle.
“Because he was doing the pole vault, I wanted to beat him. Each year, I wanted to break his record in every age. I could not beat any of my brother’s records, except for this one. We will see what happens next year, but I am not stopping here. I have to continue working hard to achieve my goals and reach a higher level.”
Chapelle considers himself lucky to do what he enjoys most. “I do athletics because I love travelling and I love competing in different parts of the world and discovering different cultures.”
Chapelle is coached by Gerald Beaudoin. “It is my first year training with him and I have full confidence in him. I follow his instructions and it is working well.”
The young Frenchman just finished his baccalaureate (high school leaving certificate) and plans to take a three-year programme to become a sports reporter, studying at INSEP.
In his free time, he plays the drums. “I love music and I am trying to put together a band. I love all music genres. Maybe after my athletics career, I may pursue a music career. I play it with other athletes at INSEP and we have a good time.”
Javier Clavelo Robinson for the IAAF