From our special correspondent in Beijing,
“Old people, that’s good!!! “. Three and a half seconds after leaving the mixed zone to respond to the journalists – not to us, unfortunately, because the bus supposed to take us from Zangjiakou to Yanqing on Monday morning passed under our noses without stopping, we are holding you, driver- the downhiller Johan Clarey is happily fucked by his friends from the French ski team.
Yes, at 41, the Frenchman has just won his very first Olympic medal after a royal race from start to finish. It will not be gold, which escapes him for ten tiny hundredths, but the dean of tricolor alpine skiing has nothing to do with it. “Money is good, I’ll take it!” “, he says, all smiles, at the bottom of The Rock, the ski slope of the Beijing Olympics.
In a state of grace ten minutes before the race
After Kitzbühel, where on January 24 he became the oldest skier in history to show on a World Cup podium, Clarey took a liking to records that smell like slippers and Question for a Champion. We exaggerate a little, of course, but he himself concedes it, at this age we begin to have squeaky joints.
“It’s unbelievable because this morning I get up and I feel like I’m exhausted. Yesterday made me a bit tired [trois reports successifs], even during the week because, casually, at 41 I’m starting to “thunder” a little in terms of recovery. And then I don’t know what happened, 5-10 minutes from the start I felt great, I said to myself “man, it’s your last Games, I thought about it, I said to myself “put on everything you have””.
And all he has, obviously, is god fire in his legs. Something to inspire the “youngster” Maxence Muzaton, 31 years old. “It’s a good example to follow, I tell myself that I still have nine ahead of me and that there is room! he laughs. A little further, Blaise Giezendanner is also amazed by his eldest. “In his way of doing things, in his way of managing his body, his state of mind, his way of training… He’s an example. He told us that the younger generation pushes the old, but in the end it is the old who pull us in their wake,” he admits without an ounce of jealousy in his voice.
“A world medal and an Olympic medal, it’s still cool”
If Clarey has trouble understanding what is happening to him – “It will take a few hours for it to go down again”, he says in the mixed zone – he still has the lucidity to take a step back and measure the chance that is his today: “You realize, I am still privileged because it’s 1’40” of racing every four years, it’s not much”. “I’ve worked my whole life for this and here it is! I will finish my career but at least I will have that, a world medal and an Olympic medal around my neck, it’s still cool, ”he adds.
The word is weakling. Especially since it was with completely new skis – he burned his old ones the day before in training – that the Frenchman carried out his raid. When you know the importance of the relationship between a skier and his gear (and the confidence you need to have in it to be good on the track), you say to yourself that the feat takes on an even greater magnitude. “Yeah, it’s really amazing,” he says. With Seb, my technician, we looked at each other this morning, we both had the same idea and that gave me a lot of confidence. »
This victory is for him, his family without whom he would “never have gone beyond 35 years”. But it is also and above all “for David” (Poisson, who died tragically in training in 2017). It’s even the first person he thought of when he realized that the charm could no longer escape him. A real moment of emotion in the mixed zone, before the joy took over for the rest of the day in the French camp, despite Worley going off the track in giant slalom shortly after.