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HomeSportsOlympic Games 2022: at 41, veteran Johan Clarey silver medal in downhill

Olympic Games 2022: at 41, veteran Johan Clarey silver medal in downhill

An experienced podium for an unprecedented track. Monday, February 7, the descent, the queen event of the Olympic Games, consecrated the veterans of world alpine skiing. Judge for yourself: the Swiss Beat Feuz, soon to be 35, Olympic champion; Frenchman Johan Clarey, 41, silver medal; and the “young” Austrian Matthias Mayer, 31, in bronze.

The native of Tignes (Savoie), leader of the speed group of the French team, becomes at the same time the oldest alpine skier Olympic medalist in the history of the Games, erasing from the tablets the American Bode Miller (36 years and 127 days), in bronze during the super-G of Sochi, in 2014.

Read also Beijing 2022 Olympics: Johan Clarey, the still green “grandpa” of French alpine skiing

Johan Clarey never ceases to amaze. On January 21, he was – already – second on the Streif, the legendary downhill track in Kitzbühel (Austria) on which every downhiller dreams of winning. Already behind Beat Feuz. On Monday, the Frenchman was struggling to realize: “It’s the apotheosis of my career, it was my goal and it happened like a dream”, jubilant, blissful smile under the helmet, the forties in the arrival area, warmly congratulated by the members of the France team.

Party bib 19, the one that his partners respectfully nicknamed “grandpa” was on par with Beat Feuz throughout “The Rock”, the Yanqing Olympic track that skiers discovered when they arrived in China, before coming to die at 10 small hundredths of the time of the Swiss, the best descender on the planet for five years.

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“This morning I get up I’m exhausted, the day yesterday made me a little tired all the same [le départ de la course prévue dimanche a été reporté de vingt-quatre heures à cause de fortes rafales de vent]. And five minutes from the start, I felt good, I said to myself: “Man, it’s your last Games, put everything you have, attack the track”, and I see 2 at the bottom, it’s is fantastic. »

“I may have believed in it a little more than the others”

Clarey, for the sake of saving a body bruised by injuries until his thirties, had bet his season on two races: Kitzbühel and the Olympic downhill. Winning bet. However, some would have laughed in his face in mid-January when after Wengen (Switzerland), the France speed team had absent subscribers on the World Cup podiums. Today, the dean of the white circus says it, there is “perhaps believed a little more than the others”.

“All the work he has done so far is paying off. At 41, it’s deserved, for him and for the whole group, it’s a lot of emotion, greeted Xavier Fournier-Bidoz, the French coach of the speed group. For four or five years, he has enjoyed himself. With Beat and Matthias, it’s a magnificent podium, really. »

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Same admiration in the eyes of Matthieu Bailet, 27and of the race after a big mistake halfway through – “He is the athlete I respect the most in our group” – or Maxence Muzaton (11andhis best winter ranking) – “A well of knowledge, it has many things to bring to us”. But it’s Blaise Giezendanner (26and), who accompanied his eldest on the Kitzbühel podium on January 21, which pays the most beautiful tribute:

“’Yo’, he’s a great guy, I remember him in 2016, he told me he wanted to stop skiing; today, he is Olympic vice-champion… He often told us that the younger generation pushes the buttocks of the old, in the end, it is the old who pull us up. All we young people have to do is ski in their wake and try to catch them. »

After twenty winters in competition – nine podiums, no World Cup victory – Johan Clarey does not yet know if he will put on his shoes again next season, with the Courchevel World Championships on the horizon. Too early to decide, even if at 41 the efforts begin to weigh.

On Monday, in the arrival area of ​​“The Rock”, a white ribbon winding through a peeling mountain range in windswept Hebei, Johan Clarey let out a loud cry of joy. Then immediately had a thought. It was for his friend from the France team David Poisson, who died during training at the end of 2017 in Canada. The Savoyard considered him his brother. After his silver medal in the super-G at the world championships in Are, Sweden, in 2019, he had this sentence: “I have the feeling of not skiing alone, it’s mystical. »

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