It’s not the first time that Martin Fourcade has wanted to ski race.
But for the French biathlon star, who won two gold medals at the Sochi Olympics in February as well as his third overall World Cup title last season, the 2015 season will be the first time in years that he has seriously dedicated himself to cross-country skiing, with an eye toward World Championships in Falun, Sweden.
“To continue to grow, I feel like I need to put myself in danger and meet this challenge,” the 25-year-old told France’s L’Equipe magazine. “To become a master in something that I have not practiced since I was a junior in just six months, I have decided to integrate into the training group of skiers during three key stages of the season.”
Fourcade gave cross country racing a try back in the early part of the 2012 season. After placing sixth in the opening FIS race in Beitostolen, he earned a spot on the French team in the World Cup openers in Gällivare, Sweden. But there he sputtered to 48th place.
It was not the finish that Fourcade, who routinely has the fastest ski times on biathlon’s World Cup circuit, was hoping for. So this time around, he is focusing on more ski-specific training during the summer.
Last week in Premanon, France, Fourcade spoke with his own trainer as well as the head for the French men’s ski team. It’s clear to all that he will have to earn his selection to the French team for the opening Lillehammer World Cups this season – a gold medal in another sport will not be enough to earn him any special privileges.
The French ski team shone in a surprising place last year, earning bronze in the 4 x 10 k relay at the Sochi relay; a standout performance by one of the team’s stronger members would have been more expected. But the core group of skiers succeeded as a team, one which Fourcade now has to insert himself into.
He recently joined the skiers for a training camp in Vercors, France. Fourcade tweeted a photo of himself road biking with ski star Maurice Manificat and other teammates.
“The good friendship takes nothing away from the spirit of competition,” he told L’Equipe. “At training, the desire for competition assures the power struggles that are inherent in high-level sport. We all know who will be the judge: the selections on November 25. I’ll try to earn my place on the team, and then I’ll decide where to go with my season.”
It’s anticipated that Fourcade could miss up to three biathlon World Cup weekends if he goes all-in on his cross country skiing plan. In the meantime, he will join the ski team in Oberhof for an on-snow camp and then for their final race preparations in Scandinavia.
But he’s definitely not giving up biathlon altogether. Earlier this month he was back training with his older brother Simon, who has 14 World Cup podiums of his own.
“The challenge that I’d like to meet next season is to be in two World Championships, in cross country skiing and in biathlon, and to do my best in both,” he said in a press conference in his hometown of Font Romeu earlier this spring, according to Midi Libre. “This is a big challenge because even though they are fairly similar distances, they are quite different efforts. This is a big challenge in terms of logistics, scheduling, preparation.”
Nevertheless, after another very successful year, the Catalan native is looking forward to spicing things up.
“Without having started in skiing, I never would have discovered biathlon,” Fourcade told L’Equipe. “At the moment when I had to specialize, ten years ago, it was a tough decision. I’ve never regretted this choice to the extent that it brought me any unhappiness, but I never lost the desire to try my luck in skiing.”
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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.
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