For the past six seasons, men’s World Cup sprinting has been almost entirely about one athlete. Johannes Høsflot Klæbo has raced in 28 World Cup, Championship, or Olympic sprint events since November 2018, and remarkably, has won all but three of them. Incidentally, all three of those times have occurred in Ruka, Finland, and he has ended up a mere second place each time. In his first year on the circuit (2017), Klæbo took home the crystal sprint globe, starting a streak he continued for the next four seasons. In the 2020/2021 season the Norwegian team skipped many of the World Cups due to the coronavirus pandemic and Klæbo finished eighth in the sprint rankings.
This year the globe was delivered to a new nation as Richard Jouve topped the sprint rankings, earning France its first ever World Cup sprint globe.
A positive COVID test for Klæbo at the beginning of March took him out of the running for the remainder of the season, meaning he missed out on the final two individual sprints. Sitting in second place at a deficit of 210 World Cup sprint points, this window of opportunity was all that Jouve needed to step into the lead. With back-to-back victories in Drammen and Falun, Jouve secured the crystal globe with 568 points, just six ahead of Klæbo.
Jouve was born in south-eastern France in the town of Briançon to a Djiboutian mother and an alpine-ski racing French father. He opted to pursue nordic skiing instead of alpine and has represented the Club de Sports à Méribel domestically since 2020.
Jouve made his World Cup debut in Otepää, Estonia in 2015 where he finished 49th. His first podium finish came just months later when he finished third in Lahti, Finland. Since then Jouve has earned another thirteen podium finishes on the World Cup circuit, though his first victory came just a few weeks ago in Drammen, Norway.
Like most highly-ranked athletes this season, Jouve had his sights set on an Olympic medal in Beijing. However, during the individual freestyle sprint, his stronger suit, he missed out on a lucky loser spot by 0.08 seconds, after placing third in a stacked and tactical semi-final heat. Jouve ended his day in 7th position. He did, however, support the French team to a bronze medal in the 4 x 10 k relay, adding to an Olympic medal collection that began with a team sprint bronze medal in 2018, where he raced with Maurice Magnificat.
Despite missing out on Olympic hardware, the 2021/22 season marked a jump in Jouve’s results, as he finished on the podium in five of eight individual World Cup sprints. He missed just two final heats, finishing seventh on both occasions. This consistency is what set him up to win the World Cup sprint title, marking significant improvement from last season when he finished a previous personal-best of sixth place overall.
In earning this sprint globe, Jouve became the first ever French athlete to end the season on top of the World Cup rankings, in overall, distance or sprint. Speaking to what this accomplishment meant to him, Jouve shared the following words (in French) with the publication ski-nordique.net “It’s a huge satisfaction, to be first for the duration of a season is an incredible thing. For that one must be consistent in all the competitions and this year I succeeded at doing that. Klæbo wasn’t there for the last two races and I succeeded in doing what I needed to take home the globe.
“This little globe is very important for me. It’s the objective of a career, it’s a satisfaction for the whole team and also a particular emotion. We have a great team of sprinters with Lucas [Chanavat], with the others, and it’s a group that pushes each other to be the best [version] of ourselves. This week, I felt the pressure because I absolutely needed to win today in Falun to get this globe. This morning I was very nervous and I was scared in the quarter-final. Finally, I wanted to ski in front and I really succeeded. I am so content, so satisfied.”
Jouve’s long-time coach, Cyril Burdet told the French ski federation, “I think it’s something really strong with him. He has trained with me for years, we’ve had both good and bad moments together, that is part of all relationships with a coach. I really want to tell him thank you because what happened today is one of the great moments, clearly. It’s something incredible.”
Burdet continued, saying, “In fact, there is nothing but sport that can give us these types of emotions. For some weeks, we collapsed after the Games. Because the goal in the life of an athlete or a coach is an Olympic medal. It’s something that made us all sad that we didn’t get there. But today, to realize this opportunity, it’s something exceptional. So, thanks to you Richard [Jouve], it was huge.”
At the age of twenty-seven, Jouve has many seasons of racing still ahead of him. As for the remainder of this winter, Jouve says, “I will focus on the French club championships with Méribel, and maybe the French Championships in Prémanon. We’ll see.”
Growing up in Washington’s Methow Valley, Ella was immersed in skiing and the ski community from a young age. From early days bundled in the pulk, to learning to ski as soon as she could walk, to junior racing, a few seasons of collegiate racing, and then to coaching, she has experienced the ski world in many forms. Now, as a recent graduate from Dartmouth College, she finds herself living in France splitting her time between teaching English at a university in Lyon, avidly following ski racing (and now writing about it!) and adventuring in the outdoors as often as possible.