Aged 17, Mattéo Baud is one of the most promising talents in French Nordic combined skiing. He will be representing his country at the Youth Olympic Games Lausanne 2020 in a rather unusual context, as the competitions will be held on home soil – at the Jason Lamy-Chappuis Stadium in Les Tuffes, Prémanon, in the French Jura.
How did you first get into Nordic combined?
I’ve been doing this sport since I was really young; I must have started out when I was five or six. My dad, Frédéric Baud, competed in Nordic combined at the highest level – he took part in the Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City in 2002 – so I was thrown in at the deep end. He made me try ski jumping very early on. At the start, I tested out loads of different sports, but it was ski jumping that got me hooked. I really enjoyed it and it soon became a passion. That was why I took up Nordic combined.
How have you developed over the years?
The hard part is combining ski jumping and cross-country skiing, but as I’d also done a lot of ski racing, I immediately felt at ease after jumping. Doing both together was something I liked straight away. At the beginning, you just do it for the fun of it, I wasn’t thinking about the performances; but at the same time you’re a competitor, and I really enjoyed what I was doing. You start out on small jumps with friends, just having fun more than anything else. Then you begin doing international competitions by age category, and when I got to about 14, I realised it was beginning to get a bit more serious. You go through the stages one by one and you start thinking about a career in sport. This summer, on the European circuit [Alpen Cup], in which you can compete up until the age of 19, I finished on the podium twice, and I won the FIS Youth Cup in Oberhof.
What do the Youth Olympic Games represent in your view?
The YOG are an Olympic event, so they represent lots of things. Taking part in the competition will be like a dream come true. It’s an amazing event, and competing on home soil is really incredible – I’m so lucky. Last winter, I competed in the Coupe de France on the ski jump in Les Tuffes, and this summer, I trained on the dry slope. I know the run and the venue well, and I’ve also been training on the cross-country course for a while now. It’s great to be having the YOG in Prémanon – it makes it even more special.
Is competing in your home country an advantage?
Yes and no. Sometimes, you compete on a ski jump you’re not familiar with at all and it all goes really well, and sometimes you know the venue and don’t perform. Ski jumping is a bit of a special case. But there’s no doubt about it: clearly, when you know the venue, you’re less in the dark, you know that you don’t need to recce the cross-country course, and you’re familiar with the bends, ascents and descents; basically, you’re a bit more confident in yourself.
Who are your main rivals?
In my age category, there are a few high-level specialists – Waltteri Karhumaa from Finland comes to mind. At the Youth Cup in Oberhof in late August, there were two races: I won the first one, and he beat me in the sprint in the second. I think he’s a good competitor. There are also the German athletes like Jan Andersen and Lenard Kersting, who were really quick in the Alpen Cup. With Kersting, I finished ahead of him once and behind him once. The level is pretty intense, and it’s all quite open. These are the competitors I’m going to be facing at the YOG, along with Japanese and North American athletes! I think it’s going to be a great competition.
How do you see your future career?
I plan to do everything possible to keep going as far as I can in my sports career. If possible I’d like to take part in the Continental Cup this winter, and my long-term goal is to compete in the World Cup and, of course, the Olympic Winter Games. Beijing 2022 is an objective for me – it depends on how I progress. If everything goes well, there may be a way, but you need to focus on yourself and climb the ladder one step at a time.
Do you have any role models?
Yes. The skiers in the French team, Antoine Gérard and Laurent Muhlethaler, are good role models. We’ve done a few courses together, and you can clearly see what you need to do to improve. You see their level in ski jumping and you understand what’s still to be done. And, of course, there’s Jason Lamy-Chappuis – he was my childhood idol. I used to watch his races on TV when I was younger. His victory in Vancouver in 2010 got me starry eyed – I must have seen all his races: World Cups, World Championships, everything. He inspired me a lot – that has really driven me on.
What is your programme between now and January?
I’ve got a really busy programme leading up to the YOG with all the Alpen Cup events, plus the national circuit. I’m going to take each race as it comes, try to get some rest and do everything possible to be in good shape and deliver at the YOG in Prémanon in January.
According to his coach, Samuel Guy, Baud is the clear leader in the French team in his age category. “We have similar backgrounds: my father, Fabrice Guy, was an Olympic champion in 1992 in Albertville, and for my part, I sort of came up short of my goal, which was to get to the World Cup and take part in the Games,” said Guy. “So I hope that [Baud] will take my advice on board – there are some mistakes that you just can’t make. You have to put things in perspective when it comes to your family environment and your coach; you need to have clear guiding principles and stick to them. Having a father who competed at the highest level adds some extra pressure. You need to be able to manage all that so that you don’t have any hang-ups or stumbling blocks. Mattéo will have to make sure he listens to any pointers I give him to avoid mistakes.”