Martin Fourcade in doubt

Martin Fourcade at the Biathlon World Cup event in Oberhof, Germany on January 12th.
Martin Fourcade at the Biathlon World Cup event in Oberhof, Germany on January 12th. Petr David Josek / AP

Funny atmosphere on the shooting steps. A late reign, not yet a funeral: Martin Fourcade is not in good health, but he is standing up, all the same. The monarch of biathlon for seven seasons, five-time Olympic champion of the discipline, has human results, that's what changes. For six weeks now that the season has begun, he is waiting for the next in the hope of becoming the invincible again, and the week after, we must wait. His appearances in mixed zone, at the microphone of the broadcaster La Chaîne L'Equipe, unfold the same questions, black face of the one who does not like to lose, like all those who have always won.

Thursday, January 17, in Ruhpolding in Bavaria, the alert is exceeded: despite a perfect shot, the Frenchman finished fourth to 15 s of the one who took his yellow jersey of leader of the World Cup, the Norwegian Johannes Boe, yet sanctioned with a penalty round. Fourcade never fired as well (92% success) but slowed down on the skis. Where he knew he could once fail at the rifle, he was forced to go without fail to hope to win, and again, without any guarantee.

Midway through the World Cup, Martin Fourcade is third overall. That leaves 78 boys behind him, but he will not win an eighth big crystal globe, reserved for the final winner. Friday 18, in the relay, the same weakness - relative - on the skis despite a good third place finish for the Blues. He says :

"I have a little less fries on skis and it does not make a difference. It's not a problem of envy. It's the body that does not respond. I just want to find the answer to this problem. If I have to look all season, I will look, but I do not want to show what I showed on the track today. I want more, I ambition more, I trained for more. I do not take pleasure in suffering on the track permanently. "

The day before, he confessed "Weariness to see that I can not take off".

"It's possible that what I offered him was not good"

The coaching of the Blues is scratching his head. Certainly, there is the backlash of an Olympic season and solicitations that go with the most titled French status in history at the Olympics, not to mention his life as a father of two children. But the summer preparation was deemed successful. He said he appreciated the new features introduced in the physical training by the former founder Vincent Vittoz, who replaced in the spring the prime contractor of Fourcade's first successes, Stéphane Bouthiaux.

Read also Biathlon: Martin Fourcade changes everything to stay at the top

Vittoz emphasizes, with figures, that other French skiers are faster than before. But, concerning the boss, he is obliged to concede that something is wrong and he is struggling to find a solution, he who is living his first season of biathlon. Friday, draft of a mea culpa on La Chaîne L'Equipe:

"It's complicated in the sense that, for me, it's a novelty. I do not have the retreat of Martin's good years. Is it due to the fact that it's a post-Olympic year? Or at this change of coach he did not digest? It is possible that what I proposed to him was not good. It's complicated, once the season starts, to change something. If there was a lack [d’entraînement] or overflow during the summer, it's hard to rectify during the Christmas break that is not long enough [deux semaines et demie]. "

"A little too much in search of one's physical level"

Satisfied with his training during the holidays, convinced of having regenerated, the Catalan thought to find his ski level during the German stages of Oberhof and Ruhpolding. Nothing has happened and Fourcade is now planning not to show up for one or more of the next World Cup rounds, with one goal in mind: "The goal is to reach the Worlds with the opportunity to fight at my level and to be able to make the difference as I know how to do, and not to suffer 100% of the races as it has been since the beginning of season. " The world championships in Sweden will take place from March 9th to 17th.

Martin Fourcade's shooting coach since his debut in the World Cup until the end of the 2016 season, Siegfried Mazet has never experienced extended moments of doubt in the home of a friend. He is now helping Norwegian rivals to aim, with some success for Johannes Boe, to make a clear progress.

Read also: Siegfried Mazet, from Fourcade to the Norwegian enemy

"He had weeks when he was not doing well in the end but made up for it, and the next week he was racing again", he recalls.

"I think he's looking for sensations. He said a lot that he wanted to regain his physical level in 2017, and he somewhat overshadowed the biathlete he was. He is a little too much in search of his physical level and as he does not succeed, it scares him. However, it is not the best of the moment but it is also Johannes (Boe) who has gained a lot in regularity. It goes 10 to 15 s faster [dans un format sprint de 7,5 km] and Martin 10 to 15 s slower than last year. Many people would like to have his level. "

Not Martin Fourcade, and that's what bothers him.

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