Europe 1 with AFP / Photo credits: ANDERS WIKLUND / TT NEWS AGENCY / TT News Agency via AFP 18:17 p.m., November 28, 2023

Julia Simon and Justine Braisaz-Bouchet will be teamed up for the first time this winter in the women's relay on Wednesday in Östersund (Sweden). Simon, who holds the big crystal globe, said she was "mentally blunted" by the situation on Sunday.

"We know very well that we are in an unprecedented situation": the season has barely begun, the affair between Julia Simon and Justine Braisaz-Bouchet, teamed up for the first time this winter in the women's relay on Wednesday in Östersund (Sweden), is turning into a headache for Les Bleues. Since the revelation at the beginning of July of two complaints of credit card fraud against her, including one filed by Braisaz-Bouchet, Simon, not the type to vent - even when it is smiling - had put on a good face.

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Julia Simon had filed a complaint against X for identity theft

Julia Simon had also counter-attacked, strongly contesting the alleged facts, dating back to the summer of 2022, and in turn filing a complaint against X for identity theft. But the armor of the holder of the big crystal globe cracked on Sunday when she admitted to being "mentally exhausted", without really expecting it, just after the first individual race of the winter, finishing outside the top 30.

"It sounds weird to say I'm mentally blunted when it's the first individual competition, but it's true. That's just the way it is. You have to accept it," she said. I'm not going to cry, though..." "I'm not going to draw a picture for you, it's been a complicated summer, there's a lot of pressure building up. I think it's going to be difficult all winter to hold on," Simon said.

Forced cohabitation between two spearheads of Les Bleues

Faced with this forced cohabitation between the two spearheads of Les Bleues, one outgoing world number 1, the other reigning Olympic champion in the mass start just back from maternity, already without hooked atoms in their shared youth in Les Saisies, how do they function? Beyond that, how do you make a group that lives largely in isolation work during the four months that the season lasts, from World Cup to World Cup?

"We know very well that we are in an unprecedented situation," said Cyril Burdet, who is in his second winter as coach of Les Bleues. We've been dealing with this for quite some time." "Internally, we don't talk about it every day. It's sincere: we focus first on performance and what we have to do to be good. We're going to find solutions so that everyone is at their best, that's what is at stake," continued the technician, who is not worried "for the moment" about Simon's confession and who does not envisage any particular treatment for the moment.

"We make a clear distinction between the sporting and the extra-sporting," he told AFP a few weeks ago. "Inevitably, we had to go through certain stages for everyone to hear this message. But today, I think the group has regained a form of serenity."

'Common interests'

"Everyone knows very well now that we're not dealing with a team of friends, but we have a real team of competitors, who are there first and foremost to express themselves fully in their sport and perform as well as possible," explains Burdet. It's up to us to use this emulation and internal confrontation to get the best out of the girls."

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Are his biathletes ready to play the team game in relays? "Yes, because we have common interests," he says. We work for a whole team, a staff, and also a whole nation, we represent France. You have to know how to overcome your personal problems and run for the good of all. I think they do it well." "It's a private matter, which has no place in the team, nor in my sporting project," Braisaz-Bouchet said. And to put it simply, I'm not worried about this winter."

"What I take away from all this is that we have a team that has gained a lot in maturity, with girls who are very intelligent, very competitive, who have character, and that's what makes them formidable on the track," Burdet said. "It didn't stop me from performing last winter, and I hope it won't stop me this year," Simon said at the beginning of November. Sunday's start is not reassuring.