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Discussion with Simon Fourcade

Villard-De-Lans, France Words : Quentin Malriq Photography : Simon Fourcade

Hey Simon, can you introduce yourself in a few words? A proverb that means something to you? 

My name is Simon Fourcade, I used to be high level biathlon athlete and was more or less successful internationally for almost twenty years. Among other things I am Martin Fourcades’s brother, that we tend to know a little more and I was lucky to have shared a part of my long carrier with him. I’m very proud of that because all athletes don’t have the chance to live that as a family ! I am also the dad of a little boy called Adam and since the end of my career - four years ago - I am the coach of the biathlon Junior and B groups as well as the Junior circuits referent, including during the winter season. As for the proverb, I like this one : “to choose is to renounce“. 

What kind of child where you ? We don’t know many brothers/sisters who are champions in the same discipline : how has fraternity come in to play in your daily lives and in building your respective careers ? 

I grew up in Font-Romeu in the Pyrénées Orientales. It’s here that I discovered the sports world through the Lycée Climatique (CNEA) where I got to discover several disciplines and meet athletes that came to train on site. Initially I wasn’t necessarily interested in competition, it’s at the age of sixteen and a half that I went to the Vercors to join a sports high school dedicated to skiing and therefore practice in optimal conditions. Looking back, leaving the Pyrénées and with them my family and my friends was a turning point as it really allowed me to confirm my choice wasn’t for nothing and that I had to give myself the means to live my dreams. I grew up with my two little brothers Brice and Martin with who I got to practice a lot of outdoor sports. Concerning fraternity, Martin first followed his big brother like it’s often the case a lot of families following me along my different sport projects like Ice hockey, skiing and biathlon. On my side, it was only later that in turn I learned from my lil’ brother and had to take step back and accept to see Martin be first. Time enable me to fully enjoy his experience and it’s after this personal reflection that I reached better results. 

What place did running take during your international biathlete career ? Did you shared it with other runners ?

Running has always played a major role in training a cross-country skier and a biathlete : as far as I am concerned, I had my first experiences around running and athletics alongside a friend of my father’s, ALI BAKHTI, with whom I had the opportunity to go to the markets during the off seasons in the summer, which allowed me to train with him in the morning and in the evening since I slept at his house at that time. He was an accomplished athlete, who ran a lot on 5 and 10k with very honorable times. Ali brought me a first experience of high-level sport by sharing his athlete routine. Subsequently, the running took the form of more trail-running sessions as we usually practice as a biathlete. Long trips in the mountains allow us to develop our aerobic qualities, to work with ups and downs specially to prepare the winter. In a second part of my career, I also practiced running going to the track to work in the form of PMA, thresholds or intervals. Having always been rather fragile at my tendons, it was not beneficial to me because the surfacing of the track caused me quite severe pains that limited me on the practice of my more specific training to ski. So, I kept this type of work for the inter-seasons!

After such a rich career (nine individual World Cup podiums, the small globe of the individual in 2012…), What drove you to end your career? How did you experience this transition? 

It was first of all the wish to be more present with my little boy Adam, who was going on his two years. A biathlete career is exciting but like any sports career, it is also demanding. The trips are numerous and frequent and over my last years, considering all the trips (courses, competitions, sponsorship representations, public relations operations etc..), I was out of my home 190 to 220 days/year. I just wanted to spend more time with him. 

Then, we are not going to lie to each other either, I was 35 years old and for 2-3 years, my results were in tooth of saw. I was clearly closer to the end than the beginning. The urge to spend more time with my son just helped me make a decision I couldn’t make. 

However, I am not one of those who have difficulty making the post-career transition. I was finishing my coaching degree and the French Ski Federation asked me to become the head of the National Junior Team. I accepted the post and barely 10 days after my last competition, I was in a meeting to prepare the future season of the athletes of the Junior group. I clearly didn’t have time to look back because I had a lot to learn. I felt competent thanks to my experience to take the lead of this group, but I had never imagined all the logistical and organizational aspect that this represented. I had to learn everything about this job. Also, I clearly didn’t have time to think about my transition.

How do you thrive in your second life? Current or future projects? 

Even though I’m still in biathlon, it’s a different approach. It’s no longer about focusing on yourself, on YOUR performance. As a coach, we are at the service of the athletes; but the project remains just as exciting: working for the performance of others, helping athletes reach their full potential is a real mission. Every athlete is unique in their qualities, their experience, their goals… Finding the keys that will help them to achieve not only as a sportsman but also as women and men, especially among young athletes is a real challenge. Modern training is no longer limited to building training sessions. Studies, science, feedback, and technology have enabled us to understand that an individual and multi-sectoral approach (physiological, psychological, nutritional, material, etc.) is necessary to enable athletes to reach their full potential. Learning as a coach is vast and continuous and that’s what makes this job exciting! For the sidelines, I helped create a Nordic corner on the GLISSHOP platform. I also work as a consultant with La Chaîne l'Équipe. 

Finally, as a lover of physical preparation, I have various projects in this field !

Born in les Pyrénées Orientales, you now live in Villard-De-Lans. What do you like about le Vercors – and more generally in the mountains? Do you ever see yourself leaving it? 

I love my native Pyrénées and its endless playgrounds. However, in the field of skiing, many things happen in Les Alpes. That’s why I joined Le Vercors at the age of 16 - as explained in question 2.  I have since built my life there and even if I would like to return one day in Les Pyrénées, Le Vercors offers me today a comfort that I would not find anywhere else.  As for leaving the mountains, there’s no way! Although for personal reasons, I currently spend much less time there.

A local culinary specialty ?

Pyrénée or Vercors specialty? 

For Le Vercors: les Ravioles with mushroom sauce.

For Les Pyrénées: we are close to Spain so I will say Fideua (a kind of paella based on pasta, fish, shellfish and seafood) !

What does running bring you today, and how does it shape? 

Running is, in my opinion, the foundation of any self-respecting physical preparation. 

We have been moving on two foots for more than 3 million years and, whatever the discipline, considering a physical preparation without a minimum of running is impossible: it allows us to develop in a broad sense our qualities of endurance, Speed, explosiveness, proprioceptive but above all it helps to limit the risk of injury in a sports environment where ultra-specialization has become the norm. Today, many disciplines exclude running from their training because they fear injury. In my opinion, the problem is upside down: in an increasingly sedentary world, where we prefer the elevator to the stairs, where 3 clicks on a home delivery app are enough to eat, athletes are no exception to the rule and no longer solicit their lower limbs out only in ultra-specific exercises to their discipline. It is precisely when we leave this specific framework that the risk of injury occurs mainly.  It is therefore necessary, with an appropriate workload, to enable them to reactivate these primary and fundamental qualities to limit the risk of injury.

Fortunately, today, sports specialists are becoming more and more aware of this issue and are putting the human at the center of our prerogatives. 

On a more personal level, today, not having the opportunity to train as much as during my career, running is the discipline I practice the most. There’s nothing simpler and more efficient! A pair of shorts, a pair of sneakers, you leave home, and it’s gone. 1 hour of training = 1 hour of energy expenditure = 1 hour of pure pleasure !

So as a coach, you integrate running into the training of your athletes ?

Absolutely, and it’s an important part of the training that I do with the athletes I deal with : I keep weekly  1 to 2 training sessions of running and this even in high season. Indeed, it happens - even in the middle of the winter season - that snowfall is lacking and running then appears as our only alternative. However, I observe that athletes who have not raced for several weeks are stiffed or even develop tendinopathies: maintaining a regular practice is essential to avoid compromising performance. It is also necessary to be vigilant on the grounds : the athletes have feet/ankles immobilized in very rigid carbon shoes and therefore do not mobilize their proprioceptive qualities. A simple support error could draw a line on their season (sprains).

A favorite shoe? Why? 

The Adidas Ultra Boost 22 and more specifically the color Zebra Non-Dyed. Efficient, beautiful and Eco Responsible (Parley)!

Thank you very much for your time. Who do you think we should interview for our next portrait ? 

Without hesitation, the triathlete Dorian Coninx. An athlete that I like and that you also know I think !

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