The French biathlon team, supported by the Caisse d'Epargne, perfectly maintained its leading position at the world championships in Pokljuka, Slovenia. Martin Fourcade's succession is assured!
Year 1 in the post-Martin Fourcade era
After the championships and following the statements made by French Team Manager Stéphane Bouthiaux, the coaches had to shoulder a heavy responsibility. “People were expecting a lot from us after Martin (Fourcade) ended his career,” he explained after the mass start event. In other words, these championships would reveal the general level of the French biathlon team in the absence of Martin Fourcade, a veritable medal-winning machine. Well, we can all breathe a sigh of relief. It seems, after all, that a whole forest was hidden behind the Fourcade tree! France came 2nd in the overall rankings of the Slovenia World Championships with a total of 7 medals, behind the (for the moment!) untouchable Norwegians who garnered 14 medals, including 7 gold… with 4 gold medals awarded to Sturla Lægreid alone, who was competing in the world championships for the very first time...
The French team therefore demonstrated a remarkable ability to put up an outstanding, high-level performance. If we need to highlight individual examples of French excellence, we could start with the men's pursuit and the extraordinary performance achieved by Émilien Jacquelin… notably the rapidity of his 2nd prone shot, which put additional pressure on Johannes Boe who missed his target, followed by his 1st and 2nd standing shots that came in rapid succession while he was already largely in the lead. It took him only 1 minute, 25 seconds, and 8 deciseconds to complete his 20 shots: a faultless performance in the marksmanship stage of the competition, enabling him to retain his title of world champion in the pursuit event. In this same race, Quentin Fillon Maillet came in 4th position, and Simon Desthieux in 5th. And to emphasize once again the team’s collective strengths, we should point out the fine race run by Fabien Claude who started with bib N°45 and finished... 12th! Émilien Jacquelin had already won a bronze medal in the sprint, arriving on the heels of the silver medalist, Simon Desthieux.
Success coming thick and fast
But the most impressive achievement in these world championships as far as French team members are concerned is, perhaps, that of Anaïs Chevalier-Bouchet. This bronze medalist in the relay event at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics gave birth to her daughter Emie on October 28, 2019. Although she started competing again this season with a certain number of reservations about her form, she also boasted new potential. She realized that her body had changed. “She moves faster and burns less energy,” explained her coach Frédéric Jean on the France Info radio station. “She’s also lost quite a bit of weight and her morphology has changed since her pregnancy. She has a better power-to-weight ratio. It's like modifying a car engine and giving it an additional 30hp!” Indeed, after her magnificent sprint that won her a silver medal, she admitted that never before had she felt so good on skis. She would go on to add a bronze medal in the pursuit event. Another highlight for the French team was their victory in the single mixed relay event. In this race, it should be emphasized that the coaching staff played a major role in their success. Indeed, the decision to match Antonin Guigonnat with Julia Simon proved extremely judicious. In both sporting and psychological terms, it was an outstandingly successful choice!
Stéphane Bouthiaux and the entire management team provided the French biathletes with impeccable support throughout the championships, as shown by the bronze medal won by Quentin Fillon-Maillet, who had previously only achieved three frustrating fourth places. The only negative point in this Slovenian World Championship was the lack of success in the relays, which is paradoxical given the wealth of positive results elsewhere. “The team was present from the beginning to the end of the Championships,” explained Stéphane Bouthiaux, the French Team Director, on the L'Équipe TV channel devoted to sport. “The only downside was that the relays were not up to par. But the overall results were excellent. But, in the future, we need to transform 4th places into medals! We have the talent to take on the Norwegians.” This will be the team’s objective at the Olympic Games next year...
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The results of the French Team:
Men's sprint: 1. Martin Ponsiluoma (SUE); 2. Simon Desthieux (FRA); 3. Émilien Jacquelin (FRA)
Women's sprint: 1. Tiril Eckhoff (NOR); 2. Anaïs Chevalier-Bouchet (FRA); 3. Hanna Sola (BIE)
Men’s pursuit men: 1. Emilien Jacquelin (FRA); 2. Sebastian Samuelsson (SUE); 3. Johannes Boe (NOR)
Women's pursuit: 1. Tiril Eckhoff (NOR): 2. Lisa Theresa Hauser (AUT); 3. Anaïs Chevalier-Bouchet (FRA)
Single mixed relay: 1. France; 2. Norway; 3. Sweden
Mass start: 1. Sturla Lægreid (NOR); 2. Johannes Dale (NOR); 3. Quentin Fillon Maillet (FRA)
Crédit photo Agence ZOOM