Justine Braisaz-Bouchet on Gold & Baby Break

Surprises seem to be part of the modus operandi for Justine Braisaz-Bouchet. After a series of less-than-expected results at the Beijing OWG, she came back from 14th after the prone stages to win the Olympic Mass Start Gold medal. On September 2, the day before she was to start as one of the headliners at the Martin Fourcade Nordic Festival, Braisaz-Bouchet surprised the world of biathlon, announcing her pregnancy and an immediate baby break.

“Very shy,” low-key baby announcement

Yet in some ways, no one, especially the subject herself was surprised. Braisaz-Bouchet is shy in some ways keeping a low public profile, letting her actions do the speaking, like posting her baby news on Instagram. “I have two sides to my personality: I can be very shy, but am very outgoing with family and close friends…So, I kept the secret until today. I just wanted to wait and enjoy the time with my family…It was really the easiest thing to post it on Instagram. I did it that way because I knew when I came to Annecy there would be a lot of questions. The organizer asked me if I wanted to take the microphone and announce it. I said, ‘No, no, I will tell them very simply on Instagram.’ I am not comfortable saying something like that in front of a big crowd!”

Back for 2023-24 season

This fall and winter will be a new experience for the 2022 Olympic Gold medalist. “I trained a bit this summer, but now will rest, train at my leisure and enjoy family because I really did not see them much for the last two years. I am going to continue my career and be back on the World Cup in November 2023… (The pregnancy) was planned; I decided with my husband right after the Olympics. I had been thinking about this. I have been on the World Cup circuit for almost eight years and if I wanted to continue to the next Olympics, I needed a break.”

“Like a teenager again”

“I have always felt quite free to do what I wanted, but now I am completely free to train when and where I want; I have freedom. I got very serious about training at age 14 (and missed a lot in my teens); the years have passed quickly. So, this is like being a teenager again!”

“Quite calm, not the emotion I expected”

The February Gold medal may have been a surprise to many who expected a Norwegian, German or Swedish winner, but not so to the French star. Still, what surprised her was unexpected emotions. “At the finish, it was not really a shock. It was like, ‘I did it,’ not the reaction I expected. In the early stages, I was one minute behind and looked at it as a game. I just wanted live every moment. The scenario was incredible with the wind and everything. When I came to Beijing, I never thought about being 40th (15 km, 48th sprint). I had the same feeing after those races as winning the Gold medal. I was just myself doing my own biathlon; I was really happy. I knew I could do great things and do bad things. The feeling (of winning Gold) was not the emotion I expected. I trained all summer and thought about the Olympics, sometimes almost with tears in my eyes. I really wanted to do something in Beijing and then when it came, I was quite calm, not the emotions I expected.”

“Knew I could do it”

Braisaz-Bouchet, who describes herself as an optimist was quite sure the Olympic Mass Start was going to be something special. “Others did not expect my performance, but that changed nothing for me. It is the deep belief that matters. The day of the mass start, I woke up and thought I was really lucky to be in my second Olympics and I really wanted to do the mass start. It is crazy: the will I had about this race. I was really focused and did not care about those around me. I was totally into my race, a quite strong feeling…Just like the other races that did not go so well; I knew I could do it.”

As for exceeding her own expectations that day, “For sure…It was not really in mind. I knew I had good skis, good shape, as I had all winter and I knew I can shoot well…I just needed to manage the little things in races: emotions and focus. Sometimes I do too much on the shooting range and the rifle does not like it!”

“Nothing has changed”

For many, an Olympic Gold medal is life-changing, yet Braisaz-Bouchet and her life remain unchanged in any way. “I am just the same; equal in everything. I really believe in myself in biathlon. There are a lot of really great biathletes. There are lots of girls that I fight against in every race to be on the podium. I have the same image of myself, as an equal. I know who I am…I know what I am comfortable with; what I am not. Being on social media and being too visible is not what I am; it is not me. This spring I spent some time with my parents at their farm up in the mountains and recently visited my grandparents in the UK. Nothing has changed and I like it like that!”

“I am really messy!”

Yet, while waiting for the upcoming and what will be the biggest life-changing event in her life Justine Braisaz-Bouchet is working to change one thing in her life. “I am improving living with my husband. I am really messy. I can be quite lazy with certain things. He is totally the opposite, so I am changing and improving in that part of my life…and I know he will be quite happy to read this!”

Photos: IBU/Christian Manzoni, Justine Braisaz-Bouchet, Jerry Kokesh

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