Although it denies it, the French delegation, 18 strong, including four guides for blind or visually impaired skiers, takes advantage of the exclusion of Russian athletes during the Beijing Paralympic Games which open this Friday, March 4. First admitted, then refused following a reversal of the Paralympic Committee after the threat of several delegations to boycott the events, the Russian athletes will weigh heavily by their absence.
→ ANALYSIS. Russian sports diplomacy in disarray
Expected in alpine skiing, snowboarding and Nordic, knowing that it has no representative in the ice disciplines (curling and sledge hockey), the tricolor delegation expects a result slightly better than the twenty medals obtained during the last Worlds from January to Lillehammer (Norway).
25 medals left available
The potential advantage linked to the absence of the Russians will be particularly observable in the Nordic events, cross-country skiing and biathlon, where they appeared as the main competitors of the Blues, on a par with the Norwegians and the… Ukrainians. The 25 medals obtained by the Russian delegation under a neutral flag in 2018 will be distributed among the major winter Paralympic powers, of which France is one.
→ INVESTIGATION. At the Paralympic Games, equipment in the race for medals
A few hours before the opening ceremony, the head of delegation of the French team Jean Minier recognized that the absence of the Russians allowed the “France to aim for one of the three places on the podium”. His subordinate Christian Fémy, director of the France team abounded, while relativizing. “It doesn’t change much in alpine skiing, except perhaps for our skier Marie Bochet, whose supremacy was challenged by a Russian skier. On the other hand, in the Nordics, it’s true that the French team was one of the few to be able to derail the Russian train..
French cross-country skiers will benefit
“Basically, we are counting on the fact that we had prepared our athletes for a peak in form in Beijing rather than in Lillehammer”, continues the director of the French team Christian Fémy who expects better from the Nordic team back from Norway with three bronze medals in Nordic skiing and biathlon. The French flag bearer, Benjamin Daviet, twice tanned in Nordic skiing and Hyacinthe Deleplace, bronze medalist in biathlon, will aim for a brighter metal.
The delegation also counts on its only two female representatives, Marie Bochet, eight times gold medalist after the last two Olympiads, Sochi 2014 and PyeongChang 2018. And snowboarder Cécile Hernandez, much less known, but still three times medalist, a twice in bronze and twice in silver, during the same competitions. “There is a lack of girls in disabled winter sports, whereas this is less the case in summer sports, hence the importance of the media coverage of these Games which will perhaps give young girls get started”, explains Marie-Amélie Le Fur, president of the French Paralympic Committee. Which is pleased that the events are broadcast by the cameras of France Televisions.
The program for Saturday 5 and Sunday 6 March
Saturday March 5. Alpine skiing, men’s and women’s downhill, 3 hours and 6:10 a.m.
Sunday March 6. Alpine skiing, super-G men and women, 3 hours and 7:30 a.m. Snowboard cross, men and women, 3 hours and 6:00 a.m. Cross-country skiing, 18 km seated men, from 3 hours, 12 km women seated , starting at 5:30 a.m.