After many years at the Palais Omnisports de Bercy in Paris, the French International has moved this year to a place called Mouilleron-le-Captif in western France, near Nantes. (Yes, it's name actually means Mouilleron the Captive, and though I've asked a few people I can't get a straight story as to who Mouilleron was or why he was a captive).
Mouilleron has just built a fabulous new sports arena called the Vendespace, which reminds me slightly of the sparkling French training facility/competition space in Arques, northeast of Paris -- all blonde wood seats and red and white Gymnova equipment. It's an intimate arena (5,000 seats) but visibility is excellent no matter where you're sitting.
Other reasons to get excited about les Internationaux:
1. The best lineup since London. Here are the start lists. We've got world/Olympic class competitors on every event. Only four people will make finals on each event, so the competition on both days will be intense.
I'm especially looking forward to watching vault. Scheduled to compete: Olympic champion Yang Hak Seon, Denis Ablyazin, Igor Radivilov, Tomas Gonzalez and Oleg Verniaiev. For the women, you get Oksana Chusovitina, Giulia Steingruber, Alexa Moreno and Janine Berger.
Elsewhere, you get Knseia Afanasyeva, Marine Brevet, Jake Dalton, Danell Leyva, Emin Garabov, Ryohei Kato, David Belyavskiy, Hamilton Sabot, Vasiliki Millousi, Mitja Petkovsec, Marta Pihan-Kulesza, Giulia Steingrbuer and Maegan Chant. Among others.
I mean really, what more could you want?
Bars: Barres asymetriques
Pommel horse: Arçons
Parallel bars: Barres parallèles
High bar: Barre fixe
Out of bounds: Dehors
Balance break: Déséquilibre
Back handspring: Flip
Front salto: Salto avant
Back salto: Salto en arrière
The competition will go in Olympic order, with men's floor and pommel horse during the first rotation, then rings and women's vault in the second, men's vault and uneven bars in the third, etc. From the looks of the start list, it may even be one routine at a time, or close to it.
3. When is this happening? Today's qualifying round begins at 2 p.m. French time. That's 5 a.m. PST, 8 a.m. EST. Finals begin Sunday at the same time.