Expert's corner: Justine Braisaz-Bouchet

Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 Mass Start Gold medalist Justine Braisaz-Bouchet joins us this week as our resident expert before the Annecy Le Grand Bornand World Cup. Braisaz-Bouchet, with 219 BMW IBU World Cup starts on her resume, won for the first time in her career at the Le Grand Bornand venue, taking the mass start title in 2017. Planning to continue her career on to the 2026 Olympic Winter Games, the French star is sitting out this season, awaiting the birth of her first child and watching on the sidelines as her World Cup teammates and peers compete.

I remember two things distinctly about my Annecy victory. First, the race: I can recall every second of it and still feel how good it was to live through such a fluid race. And second, of course: the crowd, friends, and family were all there, bringing all the emotions as a gift to share.

With two weeks of the new season completed, there are many things that come to mind. It is the post-Olympic season, and there are lots of new faces.

New contenders are emerging among the women. Some, like Lisa Vittozzi, are staging a comeback. But I notice many young girls from the previous winter’s IBU Cup. (Think Lou Jeanmonnot, and Rebecca Passler, for example). Furthermore, the absence of Belarusians and Russians changed the dynamics. The last two Total Score winners from Norway - Tiril Eckhoff and Marte Olsbu Roeiseland - are taking a break. And that opened room for others to perhaps change their ambitions and aim for more.

Regarding my teammate Julia Simon and her season so far: with 95% success in shooting, it is fair to say that her shooting skills have improved. She appears very consistent now. That is the main thing, to me, why she leads the World Cup.

I don’t see such a change on the men's side, even if some youngsters are showing good performances - David Zobel and Niklas Hartweg, for example. The most notable thing for me is the return of Johannes Thingnes Boe to his best shape. I am pretty happy to see JT at his very best. It is true that he seems unbeatable on the track after some races. However, every venue is different; snow conditions, race formats… I think he is catchable for the others, of course. But it means being clean on the shooting range, too. Every race is a new opportunity to express your best level. Advice to those chasing: you have to believe and keep trying!

As for Quentin's slow start after winning the World Cup Total Score, I guess last winter was as wonderful as it was heavy. I suppose such a season takes a lot of energy. You have to know yourself very well to keep the spirit and the shape at a top level. My advice to him is simple: Keep calm and carry on.

This week, the world of biathlon will be focused on the mountain village of Le Grand Bornand. It is a remarkably unique venue for the biathlete, especially for the French. One needs to use personal, deep intimate focus and the energy from outside, from the edge of the track, to succeed in Le Grand Bornand. The fans are going crazy, pushing all along the tracks, which, I think, is a HUGE PLUS for the French biathletes.

For me, the crowd makes the difference in Annecy Le Grand Bornand. And it is very stimulating for the French team to compete there. Each person on the team is doing their best to be on the top: wax men, all the staff, and our hotel owners,… and it helps to live 100% at the moment during this special week in Haute-Savoie. Four amazing days of competition are awaiting!

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