Usually post-Olympic retirements are cut and dry, planned sometimes seasons in advance: look at biathlon stars Tora Berger, Andrea Henkel, Björn Ferry, and Jean Philippe Le Guellec. All knew that once the Sochi games were over, so were their careers.
But sometimes they drag out. Marie Laure Brunet of France gradually came to the conclusion over the course of this spring that she wasn’t going to continue in a sport that had netted her an Olympic bronze, two individual World Championships silver medals, and a few relay medals too.
She is 25 years old.
Once considered the future of the French women’s team, Brunet – always one of the strongest shooters on the circuit – wrote on her blog that “This wasn’t a rash decision made when I was feeling down. It’s a structured decision, taken after considering for a long time in the past weeks both the pros and the cons.”
The month was spent in Alaska visiting Marine Dusser, a biathlete who was on the French junior national team with Brunet before deciding to leave the sport to attend college and race for the University of Alaska Anchorage.
“This is exactly what I need at this period of my life!” she wrote on her blog back in May during the visit.
Recent years had been challenging for Brunet. She ended the 2013 season early with a diagnosis of overtraining, and very carefully brought herself back to the elite level. Things kicked off on a good note when she placed third in the opening 15 k individual race of the World Cup season in Östersund, Sweden. She also skied an assertive leg in the mixed relay which France would have won if not for an unprecedented meltdown by anchor leg Martin Fourcade.
But come Sochi time, the Olympics did not go her way. Despite clean shooting – her hallmark – she finished just 17th in the individual race, where clean shooting is usually what gets the win. She had a poor sprint and did not start the pursuit. Then, in the women’s relay, she had a vasovagal reaction (a major drop in blood pressure) and collapsed, eventually being carried off the course.
“The last two seasons were difficult to live through, mentally and physically,” she wrote on her blog. “… Today, I feel deep within myself that I want to open a new chapter.”
She wrote that her collapse in Sochi was not the reason that she is retiring, but is merely symptomatic of all the things that led to her decision. Brunet is not sure what she will do next, but she wants to learn a trade and do it “with conviction.” She ended the blog post by thanking all of her fans for their support throughout her career and in particular in the last two seasons.
Despite the challenges Brunet faced recently, she was not expected to retire after this season. Teammate Marie Dorin Habert, one of the new leaders of the French team (who is pregnant and will miss part of next season, leaving the French women’s squad in the hands of rising star Anais Bescond), wrote on her blog:
“[We were having dinner] when a smiling Marie Laure arrived with a champagne glass in her hand and told us that we were talking to a freshly-retired. Doesn’t she know that pregnant women should be spared? I had no appetite after that! Of course the decision is her own, but I really did not expect her to stop after this year. And I confess that I couldn’t sleep that night after what she said, and if so many people hadn’t been there making my laugh I would have shed some tears… Marie-Laure, more than a teammate, is a beacon for the team, a motor, a model, a demanding character who is able to push the group in the pursuit of excellence.”
Chelsea Little is FasterSkier's Editor-At-Large. A former racer at Ford Sayre, Dartmouth College and the Craftsbury Green Racing Project, she is a PhD candidate in aquatic ecology in the @Altermatt_lab at Eawag, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology in Zurich, Switzerland. You can follow her on twitter @ChelskiLittle.