According to the formula dear to the former boss of the French handball team, now head of the National Sports Agency (ANS), Claude Onesta: French biathletes did not come to the Beijing Olympics “for sightseeing”. “We are not going to lie to each other, we are here to look for medals”, abounded on Wednesday February 2 in a press videoconference, Frédéric Jean, the women’s coach.
After the money gleaned by the mixed relay on Saturday, Anaïs Chevalier-Bouchet came to enrich the record of the Blues at the XXIVe Olympic Games, Monday February 7, finishing second in the individual, behind the former German cross-country skier, Denise Herrmann. The Norwegian Marte Roeiseland completes the podium.
This endurance test, where each fault on the shooting range is not accompanied by a lap on the penalty ring, but by a one-minute disbursement on the clock, kicked off the four individual races disputed during the fortnight.
“Much fairer conditions”
Far from the extreme conditions of the past few days, it was under a slightly overcast sky, milder temperatures (−9°C) and a much less capricious wind, that the 89 athletes entered covered the 15 kilometers of the Zhangjiakou track. . “The conditions were much fairer for everyone, will explain the new medalist after the finish. There was less wind, I didn’t get cold fingers or feet… It also helps to do a good biathlon. » The format of the race, without direct confrontation, does not lend itself to immediate outpourings of joy: Anaïs Chevalier-Bouchet had to wait long minutes to find out the verdict of the day and, finally, to celebrate with the management of the Blues.
The face of the Frenchwoman quickly found a smile. Disappointed by her performance during the mixed relay (five faults and a penalty lap), the 28-year-old biathlete was keen to have a good race. She was impressive behind the rifle (19/20) and above all set a good tempo on the firing line, allowing her to compete with her competitors, who are faster on skis. “The days do not follow each other in the way of doing things, but in the color of the medal yes, jokes the interested party after the race. I was much more relaxed, everything came more naturally. »
It was harder for Justine Braisaz-Bouchet (15/20), Anaïs Bescond (16/20) and Julia Simon, who missed three bullets on her last shot (16/20). They respectively finish 40e, 30e and 21e of the day’s test.
The Swedish Hanna Öberg, reigning individual Olympic champion, and the Norwegian Marte Olsbu Roeiseland, current leader of the World Cup and who has never won a world title in the individual, started as favorites. But they flinched on the shooting range: three faults for the first (16e); two faults for the second.
“We pull ourselves up”
Before the start, Les Bleues were more of a scarecrow: Justine Braisaz-Bouchet, Anaïs Bescond, Anaïs Chevalier-Bouchet and Julia Simon are all in the top 15 in the world. The quartet has accumulated eleven podiums in the fifteen events contested since the start of the season and it is in this race format that the French women have recorded their only victory of this 2021-2022 financial year: that of Justine Braisaz-Bouchet at Antholz. -Anterselva in Italy, at the end of January, accompanied on the podium by Julia Simon (2e).
“Over the last fifteen years, it is clearly the densest women’s team that we have had”, argued Stéphane Bouthiaux, the boss of French biathlon at a press conference last week. “We pull ourselves up, summed up Julia Simon. There, we can all get a medal and it’s encouraging to say that there is not one that is put forward. There are really four of us who can stand on a podium. »
The girls will still have three opportunities to shine alone with the sprint on February 11, the pursuit on February 13, and finally the mass start (mass start) on February 19, which will close the Olympic fortnight and for which they are all already qualified… And which knows, perhaps bring France a new individual Olympic title, more than fifteen years after her only coronation: that of Florence Baverel-Robert crowned in the sprint in Turin, in 2006.