Searching for a winning balance

He is a two-time pursuit world champion. He is one of the biathlon’s most exciting and enigmatic superstars, capable of breathtaking performances and self-sabotaging acts.

Aware of both extremes, Emilien Jacquelin has spent a significant chunk of the off-season looking for a new balance. Has he found one?

What was the first thing you did after the end of last season?

Funny, you would ask! Two days after returning from Oslo, I was on the plane to New York. I wanted to immerse myself in this bustling megapolis to gain some distance from biathlon and create room to process the season.

Why New York?

I am a big NBA fan, so I attended some basketball games. I visited museums and concerts. I enjoyed being an ordinary person in a big city. And observing the actions and works of other talented athletes and the creativity of painters, sculptors, and musicians.

What kind of art interests you?

Modern. I visited the Museum of Modern Art. I also enjoyed the Around the Circle exhibition by Valery Kandinsky at Guggenheim Museum.

And what kind of music do you like?

It depends on my mood. As we speak, we are in Idrefjall, and I am into The Beatles. I might get up in a different mood tomorrow or after tomorrow and go through the day on some fast-paced rap. And then switch to something more mellow.

How did the processing of last season go?

Uf! It was a long process that started in New York and ended only one month ago. I had a very volatile - and in many respects tough - season. After my summer wrist injury, I had a surprisingly strong Trimester 1 that also soaked all the energy out of me. I returned to the world cup in Oberhof in a yellow bib but also in a miserable mood. I questioned everything. And the moment things did not work out as planned, I started to be all negative about myself. This period stretched throughout Trimester 2 and Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022. I started coming out of funk only in Oslo, where I tried to do my best and finished on a positive note. I worked out decently well.

Header iconBI23 - Emilien Jacquelin

For example?

The Pursuit in Oberhof. Until the last shooting, I was in the position to fight for at least a podium position But, I felt tired and struggled on the skis. I persuaded myself that I couldn't glide properly and there was no way I could win. So I exaggerated on the last shooting, missed three times, and ended 17th.

Go on.

So during the summer, I had deep conversations with myself, a very tiring thing. I realised I need to be true to my personality, meaning I am an athlete who shoots fast and likes to gamble to enjoy biathlon. But I also concluded that as I get more experienced as a man, I can allow myself to change also as a biathlete. And manage things wiser when I have a poor day.

Observing from the outside, that is what your teammate Quentin Fillon Maillet went through two, perhaps three seasons, before he had a phenomenal Olympic winter.

Yes. Should I tell you which of my performances in the world cup my coach Patrick Favre counts as the best?

Of course.

Mass start in Nove Mesto na Morave in the 2019/2020 season, when our usually brilliant waxers had perhaps the worst day in their careers. Quentin was fuming as he couldn't blast through the course as he was in great shape and still challenging Martin Fourcade and JT Boe for the Total Score win. Fourcade also felt powerless. Surprisingly I kept my composure, shot 20/20, and finished second, 15 seconds behind JT, who missed three times. I had 13th skiing time, Quentin 14th, and Martin 15th. And I had more days like the one in Nove Mesto - when things are not flowing, but I adapt and squeeze everything out of the training - this off-season. To be competitive in the Total Score title battle, I will need that kind of performance management.

At Pokljuka 2021, you had perhaps the most brilliant pursuit ever at the IBU World Championships. You blasted through the Mass start in Annecy Le Grand Bornand last season. On a perfect day like that, do you feel you are invincible in the morning?

No. I have no idea what will happen when I get up. On a day like that, I am eerily calm and very centred before the competition. And I go out without much thinking. It is only that not every day is like that:).

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