Beijing Winter Olympics: athletes anticipate the Games under cover



Their life was already that of performance hermits. A meticulously regulated daily life, away from the hustle and bustle of the world. “In a high level skiing career, there are never many parties, says alpine skier Victor Muffat-Jeandet, 32 years old. For a long time, it happened to me not to celebrate Christmas, because I had a competition the next day. “

Recently, this asceticism turned towards the sporting objective has been amplified by the health crisis. The bronze medalist at the last Olympic Games knows that he lives with a Damocles sword above his head, one month away from the Beijing Olympics: “I try not to see my friends anymore, it’s too risky. The slightest positive Covid test can have dramatic consequences. ” Starting with an inability to participate in the World Cup rounds, which influence the selection for the Olympics – announced at the end of January – and the allocation of bibs.

“Impossible to control everything”

This context, “This adds stress: in addition to preparing well, eating well, sleeping well, we must now limit our social contacts”, sums up snowboarder Chloé Trespeuch. At the age of 27, the Savoyard has already rolled her head by participating in two Olympic Games, and by winning bronze in Russia, in 2014. “These moments allow us to live our dream, the Covid deprives us a little of it, but we will focus all the more on performance and adapt to health conditions. “ Aim for the gold, even if it will be this time without the cheers of his “Little fan-club”.

→ ANALYSIS Winter Games in Beijing: preparation in a bubble and in the shadows

Chloé Trespeuch was able to get a taste of the Chinese Olympic Games at the end of November, by competing on the Olympic track at Secret Garden, 180 km from Beijing; “We who are used to controlling everything, there, it is not possible, she portrays. Everything is based on surprises: we sometimes have to wait without being told why, reach a place without explanation … Everything is disinfected from morning to night with sprays: suitcases, wheels of the bus … The Chinese are in wetsuits, that reduces social contact. Already there is the language barrier… ”

“We are more in expectation than usual”

Others have not yet had the chance to rub shoulders with Chinese tracks. Among alpine skiers and biathlon athletes, we hardly know that it is cold there, that the wind is there and that the snow is artificial. “We are more in expectation than usual. The pre-Olympics, which normally take place the season before the Games, have been canceled ”, specifies Stéphane Bouthiaux, director of the French biathlon.

Not enough to unsettle the champion Anaïs Bescond, 34 years old: “We’re all in the same boat, except the Chinese, so that doesn’t worry me! “” Everyone will start from the same level, I find that good “, confirms Victor Muffat-Jeandet.

→ REPORT Biathlon: the French team in working order 50 days before the Olympic Games

To understand the singularity of the Games under the bell, the athletes benefit from the precedent of the Tokyo Olympics. Feedback is valuable. Psychologist Meriem Salmi, member of the French delegation in Tokyo, did not “Perceived frustration among athletes once there” : “They are focused on a goal that requires so much attention, they are used to being in their bubble during big events. Moreover, I hear less and less about the situation, this is where we can see their capacity to adapt ”, says the one who also follows winter sports athletes.

“It’s up to us to ensure the logistics so that they are in the best possible condition. One of the most important keys will be not to spend energy on a system, philosopher, the national technical director of French skiing, Fabien Saguez. In any case, we will not be able to change the model, we will have to be well armed. “

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These disciplines where France can shine

► Alpine skiing. All that’s missing is gold for triple Olympic medalist Alexis Pinturault, 30, who won the World Cup overall standings last season. In slalom, Clément Noël, 24 years old and 4e in 2018, is eagerly awaited. On the women’s side, 32-year-old Tessa Worley proved her good form with a first victory at the end of December.

► Biathlon. A festival of World Cup medals for the Blues since the start of the season: 20 places on the podium in 22 races. Several French people can claim a victory in Beijing: Émilien Jacquelin (26 years old), Quentin Fillon Maillet (29 years old), Anaïs Bescond (34 years old)…

► Mogul skiing. Perrine Laffont, 23 and already Olympic champion in the discipline in PyeongChang, is in the running to repeat her feat.

► Figure skating. The duo Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron (26 and 27) will arrive as favorites in China, four years after the disappointment of their second place in pair ice dance.

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