Biathlon: outstanding results for French athletes

Wednesday, 26 february 2020

The Biathlon World Championships ended this weekend with two magnificent podiums for French athletes, perfectly in step with this outstanding World Championship for the French Team.

One key figure: 54%.
The French Men’s Team won 8 out of a total of 13 possible medals at these World Biathlon Championships. This represents 54% of the medals up for grabs in this World Cup season. We must add to this fine collection, the bronze medal in the single mixed relay run by Anaïs Bescond and Emilien Jacquelin. 
These Championships show French biathlon athletes dominate the discipline in the men’s category. In the overall results, however, it’s Norway that comes top in the medal ranking with 11 medals and 6 titles owing to its domination of women’s biathlon events (5 medals, including 3 titles).

A key comment
“These team results are my favorite part of these World Championships… and it’s an achievement that shouldn’t be underestimated. I’m perhaps best placed to say that it’s not something easy to do. Today, if you’re not Norwegian or French, it’s not easy to get on the podium, or even to appear in the top five. It’s a source of pride to achieve this collectively.”
This comment in the L’Équipe sports newspaper made by Stéphane Bouthiaux, director of the French teams, expresses the staff’s satisfaction with these convincing results.

A key race
These magnificent World Championships for the French Team can be summed up by the brilliant victory achieved by the relay team. But if one race should be remembered from these World Championships, it would be the continuation with this final of the “fight to the death” between Emilien Jacquelin and Johannes Bø. At the age of 24, Emilien Jacquelin won this mano a mano duel with the Norwegian champion at the end of a skillful tactical race. He attacked his rival in a climb and never let Johannes Bø gain the lead again. In the mass start event, Emilien Jacquelin came up against Johannes Bø’s brother, Tarjei, vying for the bronze medal. Tarjei attacked Emilien at the same place, but the Frenchman remained sufficiently cool-headed to take the Norwegian on the inside before entering the stadium, allowing him to win his duel once again thanks to his explosive strength and power. This is one of the advantages of the French team and a sign that the races are prepared beforehand by the staff to perfection. Then it’s up to the skiers to make the right decisions.

A key title
Of course, Emilien Jacquelin’s fine victory at the age of 24 was outstanding but, if we had to remember just one world championship title, it would be Martin Fourcade’s triumph in the individual event. 
This is for several reasons: firstly, because with this 11th individual trophy at the World Championships, he shared an all-time record with the sport’s Norwegian icon, Ole-Einar Bjørndalen; secondly, because just a few months before, not many people could have imagined such a fine performance. He was struggling the previous year and hadn’t won any medals at the World Championships in Östersund. He even finished 24th in the mass start event and brought an early end to his season. At the time, it was being said that it was the beginning of the end for the 31-year-old, five-times Olympic champion. But this outstanding champion managed to find the resources he needed to return to the forefront of his sport by winning four World Cup events in 2020. Of course, Johannes Bø had remained with his wife who was about to give birth to their child. But Martin seized his chance and found his previous level of performance at these World Championships with two gold medals (individual and relay events) and a bronze medal in the sprint. This left him well placed to win his 8th Crystal Globe in the overall rankings. He was 38 points ahead of Johannes Bø and 63 points ahead of his fellow Frenchman Quentin Fillon Maillet. There were three World Cup competitions left… After which, the man who has become one of the greatest champions of French sport could take his retirement. All the more so as the new generation of athletes is ready to pick up the baton.