Perched at an altitude of 600 meters, the Nove Mesto track in the Czech Republic is a blessed site for the mixed tricolor relay. Ahead of Norway and Sweden, the French team won its third world champion title in this event on Wednesday 7th. In March 2023, at the same place, the Blues in the mixed relay had already won the World Cup – the circuit of events contested throughout the winter.
After the coronations of 2009 and 2016, the victory of the “2024 version” French team was far from being acquired in advance. In fact, the Blues were advancing on the Czech track with a completely new team composition this winter. On Tuesday, the French management preferred the young Eric Perrot (22 years old) to Emilien Jacquelin (28 years old), less in shape in recent weeks, to launch his relay. This choice paid off because the Savoyard, first to start, was at the head of the race when he handed over to Quentin Fillon Maillet, known as “QFM”.
With only one fault during his two shooting sessions, the Olympic champion finished his race second, behind his German counterpart, but held up well to the return of Norwegian leader Johannes Boe. France then launched its two arrows of the moment, Justine Braisaz-Bouchet and Julia Simon – respectively second and fourth biathletes in the World Cup ranking –, in optimal conditions to finish the work started.
Course bordering on perfection
In the Czech night, despite a lap on the penalty ring, Justine Braisaz-Bouchet put into orbit the last French torchbearer, Julia Simon (a legal investigation opposing the two women is underway, the first suspecting the second of having used his bank card fraudulently). “It’s a race full of twists and turns, but today we have good skis. It has to go to the end.” then hoped, stressed, “QFM” on the microphone of La Chaîne L’Equipe.
Julia Simon, 27, quickly put an end to Quentin Fillon Maillet’s worries. Author of a race bordering on perfection, the Frenchwoman created a gap on skis to cross the finish line in first position, with more than forty-five seconds ahead of the Norwegian team, second.
Even if the two women performed very well, the final victory seems to have been decided from the first half of the course. Indeed, while there were few doubts about the performance of the women during this relay – the French relay runners won, between them, six races this winter – the state of form of the men could raise questions. Like all the other French people, Eric Perrot and Quentin Fillon Maillet arrived on Czech soil without any individual podium in the World Cup.
Remobilized by the Blues coach, Simon Fourcade (Martin’s brother), in recent days, the two Frenchmen have found a very good level allowing them to beat the brothers Tarjei and Johannes Boe. This bodes well for the eleven remaining events of these Worlds.