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16 Mar 2015
IOC News

Vincent Jay: In pursuit of the holy grail

The highlight of Vincent Jay’s biathlon career came at Vancouver 2010, where he was crowned Olympic champion in the sprint and won bronze in the pursuit. In the latest in our series “Words of Olympians”, he looks back on those achievements.

“I have so many memories,” says Jay of his experiences at the Winter Games. “Above all I remember the Olympic flame and the magic of the Village; I remember the national anthem of my country playing as the flag was raised in front of me. I have some fantastic and unforgettable memories. The magic of the Games is in the fact that all of us athletes are together like one big family; we wish it could last longer than 15 days. Unfortunately the Olympic Games are too short!”

Jay, a native of Albertville (FRA), was not even considered one of the strongest French biathletes when he set off as the sixth starter in the sprint, the first of the biathlon events in Vancouver. The 24-year-old benefited from the unusual weather conditions during the race. He flew around the course and shot clear in both prone and standing, coming into the finish with a time of 24 minutes 7.8 seconds. As the rest of the field crossed the line, it became clear that no one could match his time. Emil Hegle Svendsen (NOR) came closest, finishing 12.2 seconds back with a single penalty to take silver, while Jakov Fak (CRO) won bronze.

“I was really lucky with the weather today,” said Jay afterwards. “It started snowing at the end of my race but shooting is my specialty.”

He also paid tribute to his service team for making his skis lightning fast. “It was then I realised that I could win, since the more it snowed the worse the glide got. I also realised what a good chance I had after the standing shoot. I told myself, ‘This is mine!’”

It was Jay’s second victory in Whistler, as his only World Cup win had come a year earlier in the 20km individual on the same course.

Jay’s medal was the first gold of the Games for the French team and he was swept up in a media whirlwind. It took a while for him to realise the extent of his achievement. “It was only at around three or four in the morning, once I finally got back to my room alone with this gold medal and all of the emotions, when the pressure and the stress started to fall away and the tears started streaming down my face. It was only then, alone in my bed with just myself for company, that I realised what I had achieved.”

Two days later the French biathlete added to his medal collection by taking bronze in the pursuit. Vancouver was the highlight of his career and he retired from the sport two years later in 2012. He has since become director of the Val d’Isère sports club and started a family with his wife, the Alpine skier Marie Marchand-Arvier.

“To win a gold medal at the Olympic Games is to reach the holy grail, the peak of your sport. It’s the goal that makes us shine, that makes us train when the weather is bad, when it snows, when we’re cold. All of those little things are what Olympism is about!”

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