Two days after winning the big globe in the general classification of the Biathlon World Cup, a month after returning from the Beijing Games with five Olympic medals – including two titles – in his suitcase, Quentin Fillon Maillet bent good thanks, Monday March 21 and Tuesday March 22, to the exercise of media promotion in a large Parisian hotel.
Dressed in a simple red T-shirt, in denim sneakers, the Jura resident appeared relaxed, almost at ease in front of the media, the globe and the medals gleaned from the Olympics placed in front of him.
Before competing in the French championship at the beginning of April in Prémanon on his lands in the Jura, then “going on holiday in the sun” with his companion, “QFM” returned Tuesday for almost an hour in front The world, Le Figaro, The Parisian and West France, on the highlights of winter 2021-2022. A season, the best of his career, which saw him become the undisputed successor to Martin Fourcade, the French symbol of biathlon.
You have been chasing this title of best biathlete in the world for two or three seasons. How do you feel now that you are at the peak of your discipline?
Happiness. The sequence of races was so intense. In fact, even during the Olympics, I benefited very little; we very quickly returned to the World Cup circuit, we still had to be careful with the Covid. So the emotions remained fairly contained. And then, as soon as I crossed the final finish line in Oslo [lors de la dernière étape de la saison]that I touched the big globe, the little ones too [Quentin Fillon Maillet a remporté les classements des spécialités de sprint et de poursuite]the emotion really came out.
Since childhood, I dreamed of being the best biathlete in the world: I am living my dream. And I hope it will continue for a long time.
What is the turn of the season from which you knew that the big globe could no longer escape you?
I want to say after the Games. It was not yet acquired mathematically, but I had a certain lead in the standings, a psychological advantage over my opponents – which may have played on the end of the season for Johannes Boe [meilleur biathlète de l’hiver dernier et triple médaillé olympique à Pékin, le Norvégien a mis fin à sa saison au retour des JO]I rested after the Games…
In fact, I couldn’t see myself not winning the big globe. As at the Games, I couldn’t see myself going home without a medal. It was not an absolute certainty at that time, but things were clear to me: I had to go get the crystal globe, I would give myself the means and that’s what I did.
You have won ten races this winter, counting your two Olympic titles in the individual and the sprint. Which victory gave you the greatest satisfaction?
I think one of my most successful races is the Grand-Bornand pursuit. [le 18 décembre 2021]. That day, I shoot 20/20, I have almost absolute control of the race and, in the end, it gave great things.
Afterwards, winning or being on the podium regularly this end of the season is also something very strong, because I realize that I am not afraid of my opponents. I have a well-planned strategy and I have a certain psychological advantage over my direct opponents.
Many thought I might have a backlash after the Games, but I stayed very focused on my goal.
This winter, you have won everything a biathlete could dream of. What goals are you setting for next season?
It’s true, the big globe and an Olympic gold medal is the holy grail in biathlon. But there is still a title of world champion and the small globes of the mass start and the individual to seek. Finishing second in the world of the mass start at only four points, it frustrates me, but motivates me for the future.
And then I not only take pleasure in winning, but also trying every year to be a better biathlete. It goes through technical details, but it’s these tiny little changes that give me great happiness.
Aren’t you afraid to experience what Alexis Pinturault experienced this winter? Crowned best skier in the world in 2021, he lost confidence and went through the season without a win.
I didn’t broach the subject too much with Alexis during the Games, I didn’t want to bother him with it, but I will discuss it with him. I finished the season very tired, but not completely worn out. I will only resume preparation for next season when I am sure that I am 100% mentally.
Have you had moments of doubt during the winter?
Full. At the start of each race, there is always this apprehension: “Am I able to do this? » Shooting sometimes can instill doubt: “Will I be able to do a good race behind? » Most of the time it went very well. But the moments of doubt are much more numerous than the feelings of extreme confidence.
You are now among the most decorated French athletes in the history of the Olympic Games. Do you understand your new status and your new media dimension?
Winning a big globe is much more difficult than having to manage all these requests, it doesn’t scare me, I am well surrounded. When I came back from the Games, my village square [Saint-Laurent-en-Grandvaux, dans le Jura] was jam-packed to cheer me on, it was my Champs-Elysées. If I transmit positive emotions, so much the better.
They also give me more importance than before: I chat with sports or political personalities, the sports minister regularly writes me text messages to congratulate me. To receive the accolade of Martin Fourcade, Jean-Claude Killy, Raphaël Poirée or even Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, it is flattering, they know the difficulty in seeking such objectives.
Financially too, your victories are a great operation [65 000 euros par médaille d’or, 25 000 pour l’argent, soit 205 000 euros au total]. You will be able to renegotiate your advertising and sponsorship contracts…
This season allows me to earn a very good living; well below some athletes, but for me it’s already huge. As with popularity, money is not something that motivates me, but it is a bonus. And my new notoriety will allow me to “sell” myself well, it will open doors for me [Quentin Fillon Maillet devrait être invité par Amaury Sports sur la huitième étape du Tour de France 2022 entre Dole et Lausanne, le 9 juillet].
How did you receive the announcement of the sports retirement ofAnais Bescond and Simon Desthieuxyour partners in the France team?
With a little sadness. Anaïs, I suspected a little more than Simon’s. They are two team members with whom I often train on the Prémanon site. [Jura]. Simon is one of my most loyal room and training teammates, we spent a lot of time together, more than with my own girlfriend, we shared a lot of moments. I have enormous respect for their careers and the people they are. But I haven’t finished seeing them.