Quentin Fillon-Maillet - Darko Bandic / AP / SIPA
2018, Pyeongchang. Martin Fourcade has celebrated his victory over the Olympic mass-start for just over three minutes when Quentin Fillon Maillet crossed the line in the penultimate place. He turned seven times on the penalty ring, as in the chase. Affected by personal problems and sealed by a faulty rifle, the French left the Olympic Games with their heads down. Two years later, the Jurassian pulled its head out of the water. Better than that, he plays the big crystal globe and aims for “a gold medal in relay and in individual” at the Mondials of Antholz. So much so that Martin Fourcade no longer considers him only as a friend, but also as his rival. A new status that pleases QFM without making it take the melon. Ambition interview with the bis leader of the French biathlon team.
Before the Worlds you were in great shape. Would you have preferred to go straight to the Worlds, or was this break beneficial?
Both. It is true that there was a very good dynamic, that the form was there so I almost wanted to go directly to the world championships. Afterwards there was some mental fatigue so I was happy to go home to take a break. This transition is not particularly obvious. You had to find the happy medium to be in shape and have good feelings. The last times I could do with Martin were good, it is encouraging, the strategy has been well thought out.
Speaking of good times, physically you are almost the only one to stand up to Johannes Boe on skis. How to explain it?
It's a fairly steady progression since the start of my career. Each year, I try to be more and more pointed in my preparation and things evolve as I wish in the winter. And I can also thank my parents who gave me this morphology which allows me to have a good recovery between races. I may not have the explosive qualities of some for a sprint or acceleration at certain times, but I am able to be consistent throughout the season. It allows me to be almost every time to be in the best ski times.
Is the objective the big crystal globe?
Of course. I said it before, it's part of my goals. Today I'm in the middle of it because I'm second in the world at 69 points from Martin (current World Cup leader). It's not bad but there are still a lot of races. I am in my goals even if the globe is going to be very difficult to reach. We will have to be more consistent than Martin but also than Johannes, who is not far behind.
You approach the Worlds on an equal footing with the two other favorites, Johannes and Martin. How do you apprehend it?
It was done slowly until last year when I had a great season with third place in the world. This transition in status went smoothly. I was not immediately screened in the Martin-Johannes duel. It was done a little bit by myself and now with experience, I am getting better and better at managing this media pressure. I do biathlon for myself first and this way of thinking, detaching myself from the result allows me to be more relaxed at the start of the races.
Is Martin Fourcade competing in his last Worlds? via @ 20minutesSport https://t.co/dzr4hTECAI- 20 Minutes Sport (@ 20minutesSport) February 13, 2020
This media exposure has not always existed. We have always focused a lot (and rightly so) on the exploits of Martin Fourcade to the detriment of the rest of the French team. Do you have the feeling today of being recognized as a QFM and not just as a teammate of Martin?
I feel that there is a change, that people are more interested in me, I am more in the media. The Martin theme often comes up in my interviews and it's completely normal given what he has accomplished and brought to biathlon, given his record. After that it was not always obvious to be in the shadow of Martin because he has always trivialized the feat. I could do a race which was very correct but which ultimately went unnoticed in the face of one of its results. So it was hard at one time but, on the other hand, we were also protected from media pressure. It was a positive aspect.
Now that it has passed, this period when we only talked about Martin ... between us, it was boring questions from journalists who talked about everything except you?
Not boring because I'm really proud to have Martin on my team and I can thank him for all he did. But sometimes it was painful because we find ourselves… I can give the example of a time when I cross the finish line and I barely had time to change, I go to mixed zone in front of the cameras and I am asked to explain what Martin had done in his last lap, he had fallen, I do not remember the circumstances. I had just arrived, I didn't see the race at all because I was behind him and suddenly I was asked to tell something I didn't know. So a little frustrated at having to always bring Martin back into the conversation. I'm not looking for notoriety, for glory. I'm here to go for podiums, victories and after what follows behind makes me happy when it works well, but it's not a goal in itself.
Two years ago you lived a very complicated Olympic Games. What do you think of the road traveled between this period and now?
Clearly it allows me to put things into perspective. I faced much more serious problems than biathlon. Biathlon is now in the background, whereas before it was my whole life. It's my way of thinking today. I play a media sport, I have results, I ski every day, I live from my passion ... It works or it doesn't work, I would have tried and I will be happy with what I had. I'm not going to get my head up when I have a bad race. It really allows me to put things in perspective and approach things the right way. Going into a race and saying "I want to win" is not necessarily the right approach. In my opinion it's more "what I put in place to win and give the best of myself".
When you do X penalty turns in Pyeongchang, what's going on in your head?
It was a very tough race. Sprint, pursuit, mass-start… Races where I crossed the line, really disappointed, with a lot of negative emotions. It was hard times, I thought a lot during the Games. For me the Olympics were not a great memory with the results and the personal circumstances of the moment. Behind I did not run the boys relay when I had my place in the team, but my coaches decided not to put me in it. So I came home and there it was either I cry for two months while waiting for the next season, or I find a solution. It allowed me to build myself, it's part of my career.
I told you, I'm back! 🤜🏻🥉
Today is women's day, I dedicate this podium to my girlfriend Lydie who wins a fight against cancer. ❤️🎗 💪🏻 pic.twitter.com/jAvrLygv5O
Two years later, you are aiming for the title and Martin is now talking about you as his rival ...
It is a pleasure. I really like this adversity that we can have in the team because it's going at the same time super well but at the same time we are completely rivals. We were together last week, we are friends who get along well. I am happy to be part of this adversity with Martin and Johannes and play the globe of the general classification with him because it is a beautiful challenge to find myself with an athlete like him both in team and also as opponent.
Even if it is healthy, this rivalry must have involved changes in your relationships…
Of course. But we did not meet around a table one day to say how to deal with this adversity. Things happen naturally and we really manage to make the switch between fighting on skis and group life which is, in my opinion, super important given that I see Martin more often than I see my girlfriend. So if I didn't get on with him because there is this rivalry I think it would deteriorate my results.
What exactly happened in this famous turn in Hochfilzen? What is the official version of the story?
The official version will never be released because this moment has not been filmed. We have our vision each, we find ourselves at the end of the race, we have 12 kilometers in our legs, a badly oxygenated brain because we made a violent effort, so we don't have all our heads to think. When you're in competition, you have to make decisions right away. I took one, he took another. The two were not good and in the end we had a collision. It's part of the racing facts, we lost a few places each. We clarified things in the evening so that there was no bad agreement, and we did really well because there is only one problem left. We talk about it again with a laugh.
The kind of little mess that ends with laughter and a little hug, basically?
Yes there you are, at the moment we are upset because we are competitors, we want to win, we are not there to walk on skis and fall stupidly. This will allow us not to make the mistake again later.
Biathlon: Leaded by a catastrophic start, France finishes in 7th place in the mixed relay ... Relive the race with us
- Quentin Fillon Maillet