Fourcade could become France's greatest Olympian
Martin Fourcade joined a select club of three-time Olympic gold medallists by winning the biathlon 12.5km pursuit on 12 February at PyeongChang 2018. Fourcade could now become the most successful French Olympian of all time.
Victory in the biathlon 20km individual or the biathlon 15km mass start would take Fourcade past Jean-Claude Killy (Alpine skiing), Paul Masson (cycling), Félicia Ballanger (track cycling), Marie-José Pérec (athletics) and Tony Estanguet (canoeing), French athletes who all won three individual Olympic titles.
Fourcade, 29, finished eighth in the 10km sprint event after three shooting errors. It was the first time this season he has not been on the podium. But he reacted in style in the 12.5km pursuit to add to the two gold medals he won at Sochi 2014. He is the first man ever to win the pursuit at two consecutive Games.
“The master has spoken. Martin is a great champion,” said Killy, who won his three gold medals at Grenoble 1968.
Biathlon great Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, who did not qualify for PyeongChang 2018 but has eight Olympic titles to his name, has little doubt Fourcade will claim more medals. “This victory does not make him more of a favourite for the other races,” the Norwegian told French sports newspaper L'Equipe. “Martin is the hot favourite for every race anyway.”
Fourcade’s brother Simon, a biathlon world champion, has no doubt there will be more titles for Martin. “He manages to control his emotions. When you’re close to him it’s frightening at times… That’s something he’s been doing since he was a kid because of his obsession with winning,” he told L'Equipe. “Winning this [latest] title has freed him. And I don’t need to tell anyone how that could end up.”
Even Simon can’t understand his brother’s mentality, saying he was “super relaxed” on the morning of the pursuit. “It’s mad,” he said. “When you’re aiming for an Olympic title, you’re not relaxed on the morning of a race. He’s incredibly detached.”
At first it looked as though German Arnd Peiffer might repeat his surprise success in winning gold in the sprint. He shot clean to lead the pursuit after the first two laps. But when Peiffer missed a target after the third lap, Fourcade didn’t let the opportunity slip.
But Simon wasn’t as convinced as many observers that Martin would take his chance, “because of the conditions, because his missed out in the sprint [the day before]… There are always surprises in the Games. We saw that [in the sprint]. No race is ever won… Martin’s a great.”
Fourcade’s first opportunity to make French sporting history will be on 15 February with the 20km individual event. He then competes in the mass start on 18 February.