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Galfione is ready for Maebashi

Emilie Poucan in Paris

"I’m going there to win!" Talking about the World Indoor Championships in Japan next month (5-7March), French pole-vaulter Jean Galfione is clear: he wants to be at the top.

With an encouraging 5,80 two weeks ago and 5,75m at the French Indoor Championships this weekend, he knows that he is in shape and getting stronger. "I have recaptured the right sensations in the run up and am using harder poles again. I’m pretty happy about that."

"What I enjoy about the big Championships is that anything can happen. Of course, the favourites, Russia’s Maksim Tarasov and Jeff Hartwig of the USA will be there but we are all at the same starting point on the day of the competition. You have to be confident and strong on that particular day in order to win. You don’t know what’s going to happen. And that’s exciting. It’s also stimulating to prepare for a particular day or competition. I don’t want to be a machine - vaulting the same height during the five months of the summer season, I’d rather be well prepared for one or two big events and focus on providing a great performance on the Day.

"I’ve had three bad winters in a row, so it feels great to be doing well again. And I know that because of this good winter preparation, I’ll be much more confident than usual starting the upcoming outdoor season. And even if I don’t do that well in Japan, I will still be able to say that it felt great to vault high again indoors. So this summer, my aim is to win at the World Championships in Seville. I mean, now that I have an Olympic title I can’t go to a Championship just to watch, I have to go for gold or not go at all."

The Olympic champion, coached by the charismatic Maurice Houvion at the National Sport Institute in Paris, divides his days between training (twice a day), fulfilling various engagements and riding his Harley Davidson around Paris. Indeed, between journalists eager for interviews; organisers asking him to present various awards; his sponsors and the commercials he is shooting (he is also a model with the Marilyn Agency), Jean has a very busy schedule. With a brother who is an actor and a sister who models, the attractive pole-vaulter is almost as well known in France for his good looks as for his performances. His uncle was an Olympic gymnast, and his parents both practised high level sport, so Jean was born to be a champion. Hard work and sacrifices made it happen.

In September, he is going to Sydney in a trip organised by the French Federation to visit the Olympic site and to prepare his schedule for Sydney 2000. Of course, the Olympics stay the main goal of his career and he is aiming for another gold in 2004.