In the Coaches Corner with Franck Badiou

In the Coaches Corner with Franck Badiou

Most World Cup shooting coaches are experts on the range and can fix almost any rifle malfunction, but French Women’s Shooting Coach Franck Badiou goes one step better. He also meticulously crafts the rifle stocks for the French team from the junior and IBU Cup teams to the World Cup squad.

In the Coaches Corner with Franck Badiou

Over 1000 Stocks

In his small workshop at the French Nordic Training Center in Premanon, France, Badiou reflected, “I actually started making my stocks early in my sports career, 34 years ago when I was eighteen. I got my first small lathe instead of a driving license. I thought that was more important. ” The 1992 Olympic Air Rifle Silver medalist continued, “First it was just for me and then others asked me; I have made well over 1000 rifle stocks in my career; mostly for biathlon.”

In the Coaches Corner with Franck Badiou

Back to the World Cup
As the French Men’s Shooting Coach, he was behind the scope when Martin Fourcade won all those gold medals at the Olympic Winter Games Pyeongchang 2018. Then he stepped away from the World Cup team (Patrick Favre is now the men’s shooting coach) and the constant travel to refocus on rifle production while at the same time helping hone the skills of the next generation of juniors and their coaches. That lasted until this spring when he was called back to Women’s World Cup team. “Stephane Bouthiaux asked me; I said, ‘If you think this is more important than the next generation.’ He said the (World Cup) ladies are our showcase… I think I can make some good improvements with them in three years before the Olympics.”

In the Coaches Corner with Franck Badiou
In the Coaches Corner with Franck Badiou

“Be the Master of the Rifle”
“The women seemed to have lost a little of their consistency in the last two years in the prone shooting. We did not go back to the basics, but I am now focusing on the position because that is where everything starts. You have to learn how to set up the position so that the rifle is in the same place every time; it is not so easy. I am not changing their character. Julia Simon shoots fast as well as a couple of others, but I am not asking them to all be the same…We know and want the shooting to come automatically but I want the athlete to (consciously) control a few small things like position, trigger pressure or aiming. *I want them to control the rifle; to be the master of the rifle.”
*

In the Coaches Corner with Franck Badiou

60 Hours for a New Rifle Stock
Getting that optimal prone or standing position starts with the custom built rifle stock. There is no factory assembly line, just Badiou skills and tools. “Starting from just the piece of wood, it takes me about 60 hours until a stock is complete and ready for competition.” Badiou spent a whole Monday morning working meticulously with a hand-held router and mini belt sander on a rifle for junior Sebastien Mahon. After checking the measurements one more time, Badiou was satisfied, “I have about 50 hours in this one and it is ready for him to test for several days. Then he will come back and we will fine tune it. After another 10 hours or so, it will be done.” His young protégé, with his first new stock in five years beamed, “I am very pleased with it!”

In the Coaches Corner with Franck Badiou

Walnut, Maple and Bamboo
This new rifle is a marked departure from the biathlon rifle of 20 years ago. Although the Anschutz Fortner action and barrel are the same, everything around it has changed. “The magazine positions, the organization of the grip relative to the bolt, the shape of the stock and the materials have changed (dramatically); all to make the athlete more efficient. We spent many years trying to find the perfect base: synthetics, carbon fiber and of course the perfect wood. We currently use walnut the most common material but not the best, as well as maple and pointing to Mahon’s rifle. “This one is bamboo; a plywood composite. We found it to be ideal, because like a violin, is strong but soft and absorbs the vibration from the shot.”

In the Coaches Corner with Franck Badiou

Grow into a Stock
These new stocks, like most that Badiou crafts are meant to last several years. “The old Soviet team used a stock for a whole Olympic cycle; it was very basic but it worked…You grow into the stock (with time).” However that long term philosophy did not fly with retired French stars Raphael Poirée and Sandrine Bailly. “Raphael and Sandrine changed almost every year. Raphael was a very good shooter, but changing the stock was his way to try some new things. In the end, he would go back to the old stock, confirming that the original was good.”

In the Coaches Corner with Franck Badiou

Eleven Completed
This past spring, Badiou created 11 new rifle stocks: three for the World Cup team, three for the IBU Cup team and five for juniors. “The juniors require more work, because they do not have the experience and need advice. In those cases, I have to become a trainer sometimes because they need help.” Of course, even with eleven projects completed, there is always something to do in the workshop like repairs, modifications or one more new stock. “This one is for Julia Simon. We hope to use it next season, but it is not done. I hope to have it ready to test at the Blink Festival in late July.”

In the Coaches Corner with Franck Badiou
In the Coaches Corner with Franck Badiou

Do Everything Well
Yet even as he crafts his precision works of technical art, inside the mind of Badiou is the coach/teacher. Years as a champion competitor and coach give him a special insight. He admits that the hardest thing for an aspiring biathlete is “learning the balance (between the effort on the tracks and the shooting range). At the same time, he sees a special talent in champions like his protégé Fourcade.  “They wish to hit all the targets and think about the results, but the automatic process is combined with the technical skill. They think, ‘I want the results but first I am going to do everything well with my rifle to produce the results; one shot at a time.’ This is what separates the best from the others.”

In the Coaches Corner with Franck Badiou

Not Work or a Job, a Passion

Looking at his multi-dimensional vocation I always remember, “When you are an athlete, you are not exactly sure why you love your discipline, but you use it to be a champion. When you become a coach, you try give back everything you learned. But the most importantly, I think that…it is not a job; it is not work. Of course you have to work and train hard to raise your level, but still love, appreciate and be passionate about the simple things. It is all about putting a small piece of lead in the center of a target at 50 meters.”

Photos: IBU/Jerry Kokesh, Nordic Focus, Alexis Boeuf, Rossignol Nordic

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