Au Revoir to Simon Desthieux

Simon Desthieux left biathlon this past spring and is very comfortable with his decision. “I did ten years in the World Cup and that was enough… it was a very good career.”

“Reached my goals”

Desthieux actually had more than a very good career. He was on the French team for much of the Martin Fourcade era, frequently tagging Fourcade on the way to 29 career podiums in the relay and mixed relay. Desthieux with 12 individual podiums in his career, picked up his only BMW IBU World Cup wins and an IBU World Championships Sprint Silver medal in his penultimate season while also finishing in the World Cup Total Score top ten in five of his ten seasons. And then, there were Olympic Mixed Relay Gold and Silver medals…

Although he finished seventh in the World Cup Total Score last season, the French veteran knew it was time to leave biathlon. “I think it was a good time for me because I have a lot of projects going on. I left biathlon with my goals reached; Olympic and World Championships titles in the mixed relay. It was important for me to do that.”

The Last Everything

His BMW IBU World Cup swan song was a very respectable ninth in the Oslo mass start, just ten seconds behind teammate and World Cup Total Score winner Quentin Fillon Maillet. “It was a strange day because I was thinking, ‘everything I am doing is for the last time: the last zeroing, the last warm-up and with the last bullet, this is the last.’ In the last lap, I thought, ‘give everything because this is the last time.’ I took a lot of pleasure, finishing that race. I had a great time in Oslo with the team and the other athletes who I spent ten years with. That little ceremony with all of the retiring athletes was very nice.”

Role model Sandrine Bailly

Going back to the beginning of his biathlon career, the 2011 IBU Junior Individual World Champion admitted, “When I started my career I dreamed of being an Olympic athlete, but I was not good in biathlon. I progressed year after year which was my goal. I always lived in the moment, going step-by-step. I did think I would win a medal. When I was kid, I watched (double Olympic medalist and 2005 World Cup Total Score winner) Sandrine Bailly who is from my region. She was my role model. To also have two Olympic medals now is my best memory.”

“More than simple happiness”

Beyond results, the 30-year-old cherishes “shared moments with the team especially after relays. But the best is after that Olympic Mixed Relay Gold medal in Pyeongchang, because there was so much stress before the race and after it was much more than simple happiness.”

Son’s birth changes perspective

With his career in the rearview mirror, Desthieux said, “The past three months have gone really fast. I spent a lot of time with my family, celebrating the end of the season and working on my next projects. Actually, had I decided to continue (this season), I do not know how I could do it; I have no time…It was strange to see the stories about training camp this spring on Facebook and Instagram when I was at home. But I easily changed to a new life. Since my son Jules was born a year ago, there has been a lot of change in my life. He helped me realize there is another life without biathlon.”

“I will be mainly a farmer”

His “life without biathlon” plans will at least partly be complete departure from sport. “I will be mainly a farmer. Our goal is to produce vegetables and perhaps some eggs for a restaurant. We want to have a place where people can come to have good food and a good time, enjoying the things we love: nature and music. We still have to buy the place but we have a plan for that and then have to start the garden. We have a lot of work ahead if we want to do all these things.”

Making Rifle Stocks

Thinking beyond agriculture, Desthieux does see himself getting reinvolved in biathlon four of five years down the road, with a twist. “I would like to be back in biathlon helping youth. The easiest thing for me would be to make rifle stocks, because I like woodworking and made my own rifle stocks. Last week, I worked with (French rifle stock guru) Franck Badiou, helping me on some specific things. This is a way that I can help biathlon after my career.”

“Be patient; have dreams”

The amiable Desthieux chuckled when revealed important lessons he learned in biathlon that will carry over in life. “To take time and to be patient. I waited a long time before my first podium (2nd 2018 Tyumen sprint) and first victory (2021 Nove Mesto na Moravě sprint) …I would tell any young biathlete to be confident, do the best you can within your capacity and always try to be better. Most of all, have dreams and try to achieve them.”

Photos: IBU/ Christian Manzoni, Vianney Thibaut, Simon Desthieux, Jerry Kokesh

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