Armed with years of practical experience, a passion for success and a calm but forceful personality, Simon is ready for the challenge of bringing a star-filled team to more success in the coming seasons leading up to the 2026 Olympic Winter Games. He sat down between training sessions to talk about his big move and plan for success.
Biathlonworld: Somewhere in the back of your mind, have you been preparing to be the French Head Coach for a long time?
Simon Fourcade: I always thought that when I got a job it would eventually be as head coach for such a team. It might be France or another top-class World Cup team. I was thinking of this, really hoped for it, but I never thought it would be so fast. Many things came at one time. I was thinking that after four years with the juniors, I hoped to move to the IBU Cup, the next step, but things changed a bit with the French team at the end of the season. When they proposed this job to me, I thought about it a lot before making the decision. I had thought about this kind of job after 2026, but when they proposed it to me now. To say ‘no’ at this time…you never know what will happen between now and 2026.
BW: Although you are just starting out at this level, was coaching and having success with the juniors the perfect stepping-stone?
SF: I think being the junior coach helped me to learn many things, because the staff is not as big. I had to manage the training, the logistics, the technique with waxing. I learned many things so I have a large view of what can be problems and how to do to solve them…In juniors you have to explain everything. Here the athletes are older and more experienced, but by explaining I learned things that helped form me as a coach. Now when athletes need an answer to a problem, I think that I can give that answer.
BW: You have been teammates with a lot of these guys, what is it like to not be a teammate, but the “boss?”
SF: From the beginning, I talked a lot with everyone to learn what were their needs and if they agreed with my program. I might not agree with them on everything, and they might not agree on everything from me. But I think discussion is the best way to find a compromise. This is an interesting team with four guys that are team leaders and three that are talented and younger that I trained for at least one year. There is a double challenge: the experienced ones who need to perform (at the highest level) and may need some new motivation. For the young athletes, the job is develop them and bring them to the top. For them, there is no pressure, but a long-term development. For the older group, they want results now.
BW: How do you handle Eric Perrot who is young and has had good results; do you hold him back a bit?
SF: No, not at all, no limits. He does not set limits for himself so why would I want to fix limits? I understand he is still young and maybe at times, it would be good to step back a bit, but he is a really smart guy. I never saw before in France a guy of his age accept a step back to the IBU Cup, with no discussion because he had no good results. He admitted, ‘I was not good enough.’ Then he came back and got a podium before the end of the year. He knows what he needs to do. If I can give him some tips and help in some small ways, then he will continue to develop.
BW: Is it quite cool to have Jean-Pierre on the range, knowing just how good he is?
SF: For sure, Jean-Pierre has a lot of experience; so much work behind him, being on the World Cup for more than 20 years. It is nice to be with him. Even though I am not a shooting coach, his experience helps me know how react in some situations. He is super calm and someone who will not show too much emotion on race days which is super-important for the athletes; a day like any other.
BW: I see a lot of altitude in the training plan, obviously pointing to 2026; how important is this?
SF: Altitude has not been a weak point for us, but it is a long-term goal. We all know what will happen in three years. We know the track and place and know how the altitude affects us. We do not have guys like the Scandinavians who live at 200 meters; we do not have the same problems. But you need to learn to stress your body and work well at such an altitude. During every season, you have maybe 30 chances to have good results and make the podium. But if you think about World Championships or Olympics, you have one chance. If you miss out in the sprint, you miss the pursuit. What I want is for them to be ready for this event, not that we will ignore the other events, but I am putting the focus on the most important long-term goal.
BW: What is the most important thing in having a good coaching relationship with the athletes?
SF: Discussion is the most important thing. I am not the kind of coach who puts his decision on the table. I know when you have to have a strong hand to keep some order in the group, but still discussion is the best way to solve problems.
BW: No need for specific goals, but what is the most important thing in your first year?
SF: I want the guys to reach their level. Last year was complicated season for all of them. I want them to be satisfied at the end of the season. I want them to help the young people to develop and get more World Cup experience. I want to see the most experience athletes come back to the top of the World Cup, help them to give their best. If that happens, I will be satisfied.
Photos: IBU/Christian Manzoni, Nordic Focus, Jerry Kokesh