Quentin Fillon Maillet, Anais Bescond Dominate French Champs
Quentin Fillon Maillet and Anais Bescond had big weekends at the French Championships at the Alexis Boeuf Nordic Stadium in La Feclaz, with both doubling up with back-to-back sprint/pursuit victories. The wins for Bescond gave the French veteran 12 National Championship titles, while Fillon Maillet upped his career total to 10.
Bescond: “Beautiful Weekend”
Bescond, the queen of the weekend told the FFS after the pursuit, “It was a beautiful weekend…I had good technique on both the tracks and shooting range. However, I am disappointed with the two standing misses, especially after cleaning prone.” Continuing she added, “I have been injured for several years and have not been able to do all the training. I really did not know where I stood. It is stupid but I was a bit apprehensive. Finally, things are looking good and I told myself that I have done well; deciding to continue this year.”
Covid-19 Protocols Keep Three from Start
As with every summer competition so far this fall, the French Championships had to work its way around coronavirus protocols. Covid-19 testing came in to play before anyone ever set foot in the stadium on Friday with three competitors immediately knocked out. Fabien Claude and Gilonne Guigonnat both tested positive, remaining at home. Both reported no symptoms and were training normally but in isolation. In a more curious twist, Justine Braisaz did not get her test results back in time and also was unable to start. As seems to be the norm, no spectators were allowed, while protocols like spraying down the shooting mats with disinfectant became part of the shooting range procedures.
The trimmed down competitions with just seniors, U22 and U19, but none of the younger athletes than usually are included kicked off on Saturday with sprints. The virtually windless day put the spotlight on shooting, with 17 of the top 20 women shooting clean, with 16 of the top 20 men did the same. The top three in both the men’s and women’s sprint went 10-for-10.
Bescond and Fillon Maillet Lead Sprint Parade
Bescond led the clean shooting parade winning the women’s 7.5 km sprint in 16:13. Chloe Chevalier finished second, 29.1 seconds back. Caroline Columbo took the last podium spot, 49 seconds back. Both Chevalier and Columbo shot clean. New mother Anais Chevalier-Bouchet made her return to competition in sixth place, finishing 1:10 back with a single prone penalty.
The men’s sprint was a bit strange without the retired Martin Fourcade, a fixture in the senior competitions for the last 10 years. One of the heirs-apparent Fillon Maillet retained his sprint crown from 2019, matching Bescond’s flawless shooting to capture the men’s 7.5 km sprint in 16:42. IBU Pursuit World Champion Emilien Jacquelin matched his teammate with a perfect ten shots, but finished 15.3 seconds back. Antonin Guigonnat, also shooting clean finished third, 31 seconds back. The top six men were all perfect on the range including 21-year-old Guillaume Desmus in sixth place.
The Bescond/ Fillon Maillet duo were just as dominant in Sunday’s pursuits with both claiming unchallenged wire-to-wire victories on an overcast, at times drizzly day with a pesky wind making shooting a bit tougher. Beyond the top two, the podiums remained the same as in the sprint.
Bescond proved to be the best woman on the French squad at this time, with a strong track performance and just two penalties, one in each standing stage on her way to 28:33 win in the women’s 10 km pursuit. Chloe Chevalier again finished second, with two standing penalties in the last stage, 1:07.3 back. Caroline Colombo finished third, with three penalties, 1:18 back. Comebacking Anais Chevalier moved from sixth in the sprint to fourth, with two penalties, just 1.2 seconds from Colombo.
Convincing Win for Fillon Maillet
Like Bescond, her male counterpart proved to be top dog on the men’s team with a second convincing victory and matching penalty loops. Fillon Maillet despite a first prone penalty was never threatened in his pursuit win. He only missed one additional shot in the last standing to finish first in 29:48.2 over the 12.5 km distance. Emilien Jacquelin picked up his two penalties in the first prone and standing stages, to finish second, 26.9 seconds back. Antonin Guigonnat in third place had three penalties, 1:51.5 back. Simon Desthieux, with two penalties just missed the podium in fourth place, 2.5 seconds behind Guigonnat.
“Lots of things can happen”
Fillon Maillet summed up the weekend in an interview with Nordic Magazine, calling the competitions “a preparation phase” for the winter. At the same time, he admitted that he was pleased with his shooting. Still, he admitted that taking too much from these results might be dangerous. Before the winter, “There are a lot of things that can happen.”
Photos: Marika Godin, FFS Nordic, FFS/Lionel Laurent