The sport is not an exact science, but four races from the epilogue of the 2021-2022 biathlon season, it is difficult to imagine the crystal globe, which rewards the winner of the general classification of the World Cup, escaping to Quentin Fillon Maillet. The native of Champagnole, in the Jura, was already approaching the round of Otepää (Estonia) with a comfortable lead (174 points) over his runner-up and compatriot, Emilien Jacquelin. And this, even by subtracting the two worst results of the current exercise as required by the regulations of the International Biathlon Union (IBU). With his victory, Thursday March 10, in the sprint, he now has 225.
Foreign competition has already given up. The current holder of the globe, the Norwegian Johannes Boe, whose mano a mano with “QFM” was one of the highlights of the Beijing Winter Olympics (OG), ended his season at his return from China. His older brother, Tarjei, lost valuable points after his withdrawal from the Finnish stage of Kontiolahti last week. Even the Swede Sebastian Samuelsson, currently third overall, admitted this bluntly, on March 4 on La Chaîne L’Equipe: “I think the big globe is for Quentin, I will now fight for second place. »
For his return to competition after the historic Olympics for the Frenchman, which resulted in five medals including two gold, QFM flew over the debates adding three new victories to his already impressive record: since the start of the season, he totals ten podiums, including eight victories, in eighteen individual races contested on the world circuit. The Jurassian could even be crowned in the Baltic land before the final stage of the World Cup, in Oslo (Norway) from March 17 to 20: he just needs to finish at least 23and place of the mass-start (mass start) on Saturday. “I don’t want to finish averagely, even if it takes a lot of energy”he slipped, Thursday, after the sprint.
Barring a cataclysm, QFM should therefore become the fourth Frenchman to win overall since 1978, after Patrice Bailly-Salins in 1994, Raphaël Poirée (2000, 2001, 2002 and 2004) and Martin Fourcade (from 2012 to 2018).
“We tend to trivialize performance”
“When we see Martin [Fourcade]who won seven big globes, we tend to trivialize the performance, but it is forgotten a little quickly that he is an exceptional athleterecalls Patrice Bailly-Salins. We’ve had Olympic champions, world champions, but these are one-day races, much more open… Winning the general standings is another matter. »
The former champion, now 57, speaks of experience, he who was also a silver medalist in the relay at the World Championships in Antholz-Anterselva (Italy) in 1995 and an Olympic bronze medalist in the relay at the Lillehammer Olympics. (Norway) in 1994. Winning the big globe “demands regularity at all times”. “You can’t have a day without. It’s very hard, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves. »
Patrice Bailly-Salins, originally from the Jura as QFM, arrived late in biathlon, at the age of 19, during his military service in Chamonix, preferring until then alpine skiing to its Nordic version. It was only ten years later, at age 29, that he began to dream of crystal, after having had the opportunity to wear the yellow bib of leader of the general classification during the 1992-1993 season.
Raphaël Poirée will lift the globe four times, then will come the turn of Martin Fourcade, “the Catalan ogre” with seven titles. The two men will achieve especially during their career the “grand slam”: the big globe and the four small specialty globes (individual, sprint, pursuit and mass-start), distinctions introduced during the 1996-1997 season for the three first, in 1998-1999 for the last. Raphaël Poirée will do so in 2004. His successor four times: in 2013, 2016, 2017 and 2018.
This feat, Quentin Fillon Maillet has already given up on it: the Norwegian Tarjei Boe having won the individual globe. But the Jurassien can boast of having won the pursuit race with style: six victories out of the seven events already contested this season. He can still hope to compete for the sprint globe, where he is at the top of the distinctive classification, and that of the mass-start, where he is in 2and place, just behind the German Benedikt Doll.
Winning the general classification of the World Cup remains the finest achievement of Patrice Bailly-Salins’ sporting career. Also the most challenging. Almost thirty years later, he remembers. “After my victory, I immediately told my relatives: “Never again !”, he jokes. And then, I was about to be 30 when I won, which is relatively late. » The same age as Quentin Fillon Maillet, who will celebrate his change of ten in August.
The comparison stops there, according to Bailly-Salins. “Let’s not forget that he’s been familiar with the tops of the world hierarchy for a while now. [QFM a fini troisième du général à l’issue des trois dernières saisons]. But he found himself in competition with Martin Fourcade, then Johannes Boe, excuse the little “insists the former biathlete.
Quentin Fillon Maillet will certainly need to rest and decompress at the end of a dazzling season, but he sees him repeating the feat. Because Patrice Bailly Salins knows it: QFM, which he rubbed shoulders with when he was younger, at the Pôle France in Prémanon (Jura) is “a winner, a hard worker, and above all, a boy who always goes after himself”.