Friday, February 18, night fell on the ParkFleet Hotel in Zhangjiakou, home of Club France, when Quentin Fillon Maillet allowed himself a glass of champagne. The second of the fortnight after the one that followed the silver medal in the relay, but his first real decompression of the Beijing Olympics.
A few hours earlier, in the daunting wind and cold of the biathlon site, the Jurassien had just passed very close to a (new) moment in history. By finishing fourth in the mass start, he missed the opportunity to become the most decorated French athlete in a single edition of the Olympic Games, winter and summer combined. Regarding the Winter Olympics, it’s already done. “Right after the finish line, there was a bit of bitternesshe confided in the mixed zone. You can imagine that I had the royal road to go for the gold on this last shot.
Back two weeks ago, on February 3 precisely, QFM presented its objectives for the Olympics. “If I come back from the Games with an individual gold medal and a relay medal, it will be a successful Games”, assured the 29-year-old Franc-Comtois. They now seem derisory in view of his incredible performance.
The state of form of Quentin Fillon Maillet is however a mystery on his arrival in China. Not physically but in the head. During the last round of the World Cup in Antholz-Anterselva (Italy), the leader of the general classification had mentioned his “mental wear” linked to his new status as patron of world biathlon. However, the speech, from the Olympic Village, was intended to be reassuring: “There is confidence with the start of the season which has been very good. I find myself as the leader of the World Cup, it allows me to move forward with serenity for the medals.”
It didn’t take very long for his goals to be achieved. On February 8, Fillon Maillet won his first Olympic title on the individual. Three days earlier, he was on the second step of the podium in the mixed relay.
“He must stay on this little cloud to come back from these Games with an even fuller collection.predicts Martin Fourcade after the individual. He has a pretty huge confidence in him, a serenity. As a roommate at the Olympic Village, Simon Desthieux is well placed to confirm: “He goes on with things without really having any idea what’s going on. He’s in his little cocoon. He’s always ultra-focused, never satisfied.”
But don’t count on him to relax, to decompress. However, this could have been legitimate for ordinary mortals after the ultimate achievement of a first Olympic title. Unlikely, however, for the meticulous boy from Saint-Laurent-en-Grandvaux.
“He never lets go of anything. And he won’t let go of anything until the end of the Games, even if you have to crawl.”Stéphane Bouthiaux (director of the French teams)
at Franceinfo: sports
We are not at the end of our surprises or rather our emotions. His silver medal in the sprint on February 12 is almost as remarkable as his victories. Second behind the untouchable Johannes Boe, Quentin Fillon Maillet was able to find the resources after a trying post-race during his success in the individual. In the polar cold, he chained the interviews for the media before asking, refrigerated, to answer the questions inside. “It was quite tiringhe admits. We finished the media around 11 p.m., I took the hit in training.”
No recovery, no massage, no proper meal: nothing disturbs him and he succeeds in remobilizing himself with each race. “Quentin is amazingly regularadmires Simon Desthieux. It’s a great strength to be able to remobilize each time because he knows the stakes of the medal and the repercussions on his evening, on recovery.”
His victory over the pursuit, on February 13, is perhaps the most impressive of the fortnight. He shoots a 20/20 in stormy conditions even as his magazine plays tricks on him. Uncompromising serenity. New victory, new media marathon. “I lost a lot of energy because of you”he laughs after his last race, triggering the giggles of Lionel Laurent, the tricolor biathlon press officer.
So, to recharge his batteries, Quentin Fillon Maillet adapts his sessions. As he thrives behind the rifle, he does not hesitate to come to training just to ski like the day after the pursuit. In the privacy of his room, the native of Champagnole focuses his attention on Lego constructions to clear his mind. He also spends a lot of time with his friends from the France group, even if he doesn’t play video games on Emilien Jacquelin’s console.
In the middle of the second week, this good atmosphere will be rewarded by a magnificent silver medal in the relay. The first of the French men’s team since 2006. The day before, Quentin Fillon Maillet took the floor and assumed his new status as leader of the group to motivate the troops.
On the last race, the mass start, we thought the Jura machine was imperturbable. We finally rediscovered that the Frenchman with the most medals at the Winter Games was still a little closer to us humans. He ended up shaking on the last shot of his Olympic fortnight. “Emotions caught up with me on that last shot with the wind and shaking legs”he slipped, thinking back to his three mistakes that cost him the podium.
“The bitterness is already starting to pass. Five medals is way beyond what I expected.”Quentin Fillon Maillet
in mixed zone
After the closing ceremony – for which he was appointed flag bearer – and after the latest media requests, Quentin Fillon Maillet will be able to return to his family, “the heavy suitcase and the head full of memories”. Above all, he offered wonderful ones to all the French. This could well continue if he were to win the Big Crystal Globe at the end of the season.