France’s Emilien Claude, along with Switzerland’s Amy Baserga were the biggest stars at the 2021 IBU Youth/Junior World Championships in Obertilliach. As training for the new season begins, Claude is focused on the next stage of his career, thinking about a full-time spot on the BMW IBU World Cup circuit and the possibility of making it to Beijing 2022.
The just turned 22-year-old is banking on the lessons he learned about himself and the sport in the past couple of seasons to help him reach his lofty goals. Claude has been a high achiever since 2015/16, his first international season when he shot clean to win the Youth Olympic Games sprint. He went on to take the Youth Sprint/Pursuit Gold medals the next year at the IBU YJWCH in Brezno Osrblie. His three Gold medals and one Bronze medal the 2021 IBU YJWCH confirmed that the youngest of the three Claude brothers has the necessary skills for success at the sport’s highest levels.
“Do my race and focus”
Learning to focus was second important lesson that Claude picked up at the pressure-packed Championships. In competitions that are determined by millimeters on the shooting range and split seconds on the tracks, loss of focus can be the difference between the podium and a forgettable performance. “What I learned was, to do my race, be happy but focus on the next one and to keep a high level of focus. Thinking it was just another biathlon race was what I did not have in the other Junior World Championships. I had the level then to make a medal but every time I lost some energy in the warm-up or track and one or two bad bullets. I was always thinking about something else.”
Throughout his junior career, Claude added experience with 41 starts on the IBU Cup circuit, but last season he earned seven BMW IBU World Cup starts that upped his learning curve to another level. Still, he admits his experience on the top circuit was not quite as he expected due to the pandemic. “The World Cup taught me to take it race-by-race and to only do my job. I think my few races in the January World Cups before the Junior Championships were a big experience, teaching me to do what you have to do and seeing what you get…It was really different. But I only did World Cups on the tracks. I do not think I did a real World Cup with a crowd and all the people in the stadium. It was like a big IBU Cup at a higher level! Without the people, It is still a biathlon race, but not the same.”
World Cup and Olympic Dreams
Thinking about the lack of crowds, Claude admitted that in the new season, with crowds he might be a new biathlete (better than his personal best 33rd place). “I hope so. I am training every day to see the crazy biathlon fans and hope to see them next year in Annecy. That is a big goal for next season. Of course, I hope to go to the Olympics to see the Olympic atmosphere.”
Small Details to Improve
Beyond those two big goals, the triple YJWCH Gold Medalist is trying to improve across the board this summer, without overdoing it. Although he has 15 clean-shooting days in his international career, Claude knows there is room for improvement. “Everyone tries to shoot faster and better and to ski faster. I will try to improve some details in prone and standing, nothing special but to put one more bullet in the target in the races.”
“Fast guys to train with”
Improving on the tracks is the second part of the summer equation for Claude. He has talented sparring partners in every training session but he approaches then with caution knowing that medals are not handed out in training. “On the track, I want to improve my technique some, but what I did before worked I won’t change a lot of things because it is an Olympic season, just some small details that will get me 20 or 30 seconds or more. Training with teammates like Emilien Jacquelin, Quentin Fillon Maillet and my two brothers is an advantage; they are the best biathletes except for those Norwegian guys! You can push and improve with these people, but it is a little trap doing too many fast trainings. That is a big risk that I will not take, but I will not complain about not having some fast guys to train with!”
Photos: IBU/ Christian Manzoni, Bjorn Reichert