I just come back from a weekend away that was as amazing as a day dream to me. Like, you know, the bucket list type of dream. It’s been years since I started watching on television the Olympics and World Series of Biathlon, this winter sport that combines cross-country skiing and riffle shooting. My mother and I are crazy about this sport, and we usually support our national French team with a lot of enthusiasm – from our sofa.
This year, my mom turned 60 years old, and for the occasion my siblings and I offered her as a birthday present a weekend package to go and attend one of the World Cup events that was held this December in Le Grand Bornand, near Annecy in the Haute-Savoie department. It is located just kilometers away from the Mont-Blanc in the French Alps, or on a more international scale let’s say that the village is about less than an hour away from Geneva, Switzerland. As I am a fan too, I decided to go along with her and my step-dad. For the fun and the experience of course, but also – and as much – because I strongly believe it is important to build memories with close family members by organizing and sharing special events together. Even more when we like the same things. My mum was thrilled!
We departed from Nice, on the Côte d’Azur, with a bright and shiny sun, and a very acceptable outside temperature, given we are now closing to Winter. We drove about six hours to reach Le Grand Bornand, loosing degrees by the hour along the way. I knew the area from when I was a child, but as I only had been there during Summertime, I now re-discovered the beauty of this region and the majesty of the snowy mountains.
Over-excited by the upcoming event that would take place on the next day and the day after, the three of us decided to go for a relaxing walk at night in the village where we stayed, Le Chinaillon, located right above Le Grand Bornand. There was not much to actually see, so we only went and visited the ski stores and local food shops of the main street, enjoying on the way all the Christmas decorations on the lodges balconies, doors and roofs.
We had a small dinner at the mountain lodge we had rented for the weekend, and went to bed early so we’d wake up to a new day with the full energy needed to fight the cold and the snow – and enjoy an exciting sport event, obviously.
The French national team is one of the best in the world. Both male and female biathletes are regular medalists in most championships every year, and among them all, the male team is led by the Biathlon’s biggest medalist of all times: mister Martin Fourcade! At 29 years old of age, this champion has won it all and will be in February 2018 the flag bearer for France at the Olympic Games in South-Korea. In the meantime, this weekend we’ve seen him compete wearing both a yellow and red race number shirt, showing off both his leading position in the global general ranking as well as his leading position in the type of race that was run on the given day. Like I said, a super champion.
On the first day of the competition, emotions have been intense. With a great view over the outdoor stadium right down the mountains, we stood in the snow for hours with the crowds, screaming, shouting, encouraging the biathletes when they were skiing, then shutting up and holding our breath when they were getting ready for shooting targets. The girls had some potential for good ranking but did so-so. Martin Fourcade won a fair Silver medal for the “Pursuit“, outranked by his Norwegian competitor Johannes Boe.
On the next day, there was an air of revenge in the atmosphere. The girls knew better, and Martin Fourcade, focused, aimed at a victory at home. It had been 4 years that the World Cup had relocated outside of France before it came back in Dec. 2017, so obviously the French team had at heart to win medals in front of mostly local spectators. What a fun place to be! People were having a great time together, everyone was feeling optimistic and joyful, hats were out and so were the noisy honks and mountain cow bells.
It came as an amazing surprise that the female Mass Start has been won by Justine Braisaz, a 21 year old French skier who had never won the Gold before. Everybody knew she had it in her, but still she had to prove specialists right! The crowds went on fire, we got craaaaaaaazzzzzyyyyyyy, and felt really happy to be there and live this event in real – not from our sofa.
Next, knowing Martin Fourcade, we all knew he would try whatever it’d take to conquer the Gold medal too, especially because we were in France and Martin wanted to exhilarate the crowds with a victory that would tease national pride. We decided to go and stand closer to the ground, hoping for a better view over the overall trail of the “Mass Start“, the supreme race type in Biathlon.
Ready to support our champion, we screamed a lot again and encouraged him for what has been one of the most amazing races of the weekend. I almost lost my voice, but who cares. Martin Fourcade won the Gold medal and confirmed his leading position in the Biathlon global ranking, after an amazing race in which he gave all he had. It was really impressive seeing him so near us, leading the race at full speed (as one can guess from the picture above), with a great sense of tactics, and succeeding at shooting 20/20 targets. This guy is my idol! More than 15’000 spectators pushed with him on his virtual/mental skiing poles that day (so he said himself that’s what he felt), surely contributing to Martin’s positive attitude in the competition and to his willingness to take over the energetic pace of the race. My mum and I could not dream of a better conclusion to our weekend away! That was definitely something to live and experience together, and something to be remembered for a long long time! SIMPLY AMAZING!!!
Created and Written by Sophie Rebibo-Halimi. © 2017 All Rights Reserved.