French biathlete extraordinaire
Between 1996 and 2007, Raphaël Poirée enjoyed tremendous international success in the biathlon, capturing three Olympic medals among a host of other honours.
Wedded blissIn February 2004 in Oberhof (GER), Frenchman Raphaël Poirée and his Norwegian wife, Liv Grete, accomplished the unique feat of registering top-three finishes in every event at the Biathlon World Championships, accumulating seven of the 10 available gold medals between them. Another groundbreaking exploit followed at the end of the season, as Poirée won the Grand Slam at the World Cup, finishing top in the overall standings, and in the individual, sprint, pursuit and mass start events, while his wife gained the Big Crystal Globe in the women’s equivalent. The couple, who were married in 2000, spent the subsequent years increasing their number of world titles to 16 (eight apiece), leaving little room on the family mantlepiece for anything but Crystal Globes.
Olympic gold proves elusiveThe only thing lacking from Poirée’s packed trophy cabinet an Olympic gold medal. At Salt Lake City 2002, he won silver in the pursuit, finishing behind his Norwegian friend and rival, Ole Einar Björndalen, while he was a member of the French quartet that claimed a bronze in the 4 x 7.5km relay. At the Turin Games in 2006, the biathlete failed to make the podium in the individual events, but he produced an impressive display in the final leg of the relay to earn a second successive team bronze.
Move into coachingPoirée retired from the biathlon at the end of the 2006-07 season. His last ever World Cup race, a mass start in Oslo on 11 March 2007, fittingly produced a photo-finish between him and Björndalen, the man with whom he had shared such an intense rivalry and friendship throughout his career. His final medal tally reads: 44 World Cup wins (and an incredible 103 podium finishes in total); 14 Crystal Globes (including 4 “Big” ones for his overall victories in 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2004); 18 World Championship medals (eight gold, three silver and seven bronze) and three Olympic medals. Since hanging up his skis, Poirée has divided his time between France and Norway with his wife and their three daughters. He went on to become a coach, first in Norway with the national B team and women’s junior team, and since May 2012, at the helm of the Belarusian men’s team.