Cyril Burdet, coach of the French women's biathlon team, warned: "The whole challenge of the weekend is to stay on the same course despite all the pressure around it. And what was only a matter of time, as her lead over her opponents continued to grow race after race, is now done: at 26, Julia Simon will win her first crystal globe at the end of the season which ends this Sunday in Oslo. By finishing 5th in the pursuit of Oslo-Holmenkollen and ahead of her direct opponents, Saturday March 18, the Frenchwoman is guaranteed to finish winner of the general classification of the World Cup, even before the last race of the year, Sunday.
“I find it difficult to realize, explained Julia Simon at the end of her race on La Chaîne L’Equipe. It's the culmination of four-five years of work, it's a dream. There were ups and downs, I didn't feel capable of that, but I learned to listen to myself and my body. The day's sprint race was won by Germany's Denis Hermann-Wick, with France's Chloé Chevalier finishing 4th thanks to a 10/10 in shooting.
If 2022 had been the year of his compatriot Quentin Fillon Maillet, who adorned himself with crystal after winning five medals at the Beijing Winter Olympics, 2023 will be that of Julia Simon. From the third race on the calendar, the Frenchwoman set the tone by winning the pursuit of Kontiolahti (Finland), with a 20/20 in shooting. Then on December 8, only a week after the start of the season, she took the yellow leader's bib thanks to her third place in the sprint in Hochfilzen (Austria). "It falls on me a bit, it was not my main objective", she conceded a few days later on RMC Sport, taking this situation as a simple "experiment" for future years. The jersey has not left his shoulders since.
"I'm very happy for her and that the big globe is coming home," rejoices Sandrine Bailly, the last Frenchwoman to win it, in 2005. What impressed me the most was her consistency. In the twenty-one individual World Cup races of the season, Julia Simon has in fact only finished outside the top 10 three times. ten times on the podium, for three victories (two in pursuit and one in mass start). In addition to the big crystal globe, which rewards his victory in the general classification, Simon also got his hands on the small pursuit globe and is at the top of the mass start classification, with only one race to come. “Throughout the year, the key word has been to run full races each time, explains Cyril Burdet. That's how you get that end result. »
93% prone shooting success
A consecration which is also - and above all - the fruit of her progress in prone shooting: with 93% of targets cleared this winter, the Frenchwoman has a higher success rate of 9 points and 21 points compared to 2022 and 2021.
Called in February 2020 to take on the shooting coach costume of the French women's team again, Jean-Paul Giachino remembers: "I told her that it was two years of work and she replied that she was only two years old. So I said, 'Goodbye, I can't help you if you're not willing to be patient.' »
In the spring of 2020, the biathlete from Les Saisies (Savoie) therefore began to relearn the fundamentals of prone shooting, more technical than standing shooting, which she had already mastered. “There are three stages, explains the coach. Breathing, which is called target entry, aiming, which consists of blocking the target, and letting go, which corresponds to finger pressure on the trigger. »
By following a precise instruction manual, Julia Simon won her first individual world title at the World Championships in Oberhof (Germany) in February. Only 10ᵉ from the sprint with more than a minute from the head of the race, the Frenchwoman made a crazy comeback, well helped by her efficiency behind the rifle (19/20), to win gold in the pursuit (the runners start with the delays recorded in relation to the winner at the finish of the sprint race). "It's a hell of a result, I really took a step in the management of my emotions, she had reacted to the microphone of La Chaîne L'Equipe. It was a kid's dream. »
"From the age of 3, I wanted to be a champion"
Born in Albertville, host city of the 1992 Winter Olympics, Julia Simon grew up in the Olympic resort of Les Saisies, where her father was a tracker. Enough to feed her dreams of becoming a high-level athlete from an early age. "I think I've always wanted to. From the age of 3, I wanted to be a champion", confided, on the site of the French Olympic team in 2022, the one who also has a CAP in carpentry and works with wood as soon as she has free time. .
If Julia Simon describes herself as a "fairly shy" person, the staff of the Bleues praises him, an athlete "extremely motivated", "easy to train" and "lucid about her performances". "She is really mature in her career and she draws the quintessence of all her past experiences, good or bad", summarizes Cyril Burdet.
Like Quentin Fillon Maillet last year, the Savoyard suddenly went from shadow to light, she who finished in twelfth place in the general classification of the World Cup in 2022. Like him before, she had to watch her compatriots to shine while biding their time.
Jean-Paul Giachino tells this anecdote: "Last year, she was next to me when Justine [Braisaz-Bouchet] won the coveted mass start in Oslo [the last event of the season, the 20 March 2022] and won the small specialty globe. She said to me, "She made my dreams come true." I just said, 'Patience. It will happen". Barely a year later, the reward is indeed there for Julia Simon.