It’s a little audible music for several years now. Cross-country skiing, in France, would be angry with the “classic” style. In any case, at the highest level. In fact, of the four medals won at the Olympic Games (OG) by France in cross-country skiing, none was won on an event entirely contested in the original style of this sport, where the skier follows parallel furrows in the snow, with a step close to that of walking.
” It’s a fact that we are stronger in skating [style où le pas s’apparente à celui du patineur sur glace, avec des skis se déplaçant souvent en diagonale] than in classic. Today, we couldn’t find any big ones “classicists” »notes Fabien Saguez, the national technical director of skiing for the French Ski Federation, while the tricolor cross-country skiers are aligned these days at the Beijing Games.
“There is a very big international level in classical style, and some countries maybe do more when they are small. When you ski in France on the slopes, you see a lot of people in skating while among the Norwegians, for example, there is a national culture where many families are in classic »analyzes Lucas Chanavat, one of the Blues present in Beijing, who does part of his preparation every year in Norway, where cross-country skiing is king.
An athletic deficit to be filled
The top of the pyramid in France is not, however, a faithful reflection of the learning of the youngest. Indeed, for children, the classic style is often recommended in clubs. However, a federal policy was initiated, between the 2014 and 2018 Olympic Games, to encourage regional technical managers and clubs to work along two main lines: the morphology of the runners and the content of the races.
If France – more adept at technical work – has caught up on the hourly volumes of training sessions, the athletic deficit of young people constitutes a major obstacle to performance, according to Fabien Saguez.
” It lacks an obvious muscular work, when you see the size of the foreigners, which does not allow us to pass a course on the classic “explains the national technical director of skiing, who recalls that this style of skiing “requires balanced muscle groups that are not developed in young cross-country skiers”.
As for the competitions organized in France, their format would not be conducive to the development of young cross-country skiers in the classic style, according to Fabien Saguez. “We need rather short formats that allow the development of explosiveness, acceleration capacities, at the same time as substantive work”he says.
The gaps are closing
If the free style remains the most efficient at the highest level, the gaps with the best are reduced in classic. “Richard Jouve and Lucas Chanavat have made progress. In distance races, we have athletes capable of placing themselves between the 10and and the 20and square “underlines Fabien Saguez.
Richard Jouve was also ranked 4and of the classic sprint in Ruka (Finland) during the first stage of the World Cup in November 2021. “Before, we didn’t necessarily go to all the classic races, so we couldn’t progress there. In training, we now put more emphasis on the work of this style »confesses the interested party.
If the federal work does not yet translate into classic podiums, Fabien Saguez sees a rather promising future: “It takes time to move. Perhaps in four or five years we will have “classicists” at the world top level, such as in skating. » See you at the 2026 Winter Olympics in Milan (Italy), where, according to the national technical director of skiing, “France should reap the effects of the current policy”.
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