By Julien Pretot
PARIS (Reuters) – Martin Fourcade joined a select club of triple champions by winning the Olympic biathlon pursuit on Monday and is on course to become the most successful French Olympian.
Victory in the 20km individual or the mass start would take him past Jean-Claude Killy (Alpine skiing), Paul Masson (cycling), Felicia Ballanger (track cycling), Marie-Jose Perec (athletics) and Tony Estanguet (canoeing) who all won three individual Olympic titles.
Fourcade disappointed in the sprint event when he finished eighth after three shooting errors, the first time this season he failed to make the podium, but he reacted in style in the pursuit to add to his two titles from Sochi four years ago.
“The master has spoken. Martin is a great champion,” said Killy, who won his three gold medals at the Grenoble Olympics in 1968.
Biathlon great Ole-Einar Bjoerndalen, who did not qualify for Pyeongchang but has eight Olympic titles to his name, has little doubt Fourcade will claim more medals.
“This victory does not make him more favorite for the other races. Martin is the hyper favorite for every race anyway,” the Norwegian told French sports daily L’Equipe.
Fourcade’s brother Simon, a biathlon world champion, has no doubt there will be more titles for Martin.
“He can manage his emotions like no one else and that’s something he’s been doing since he was a kid,” he told L’Equipe.
“Now he feels free and I don’t need to tell anyone what it can result in.”
Fourcade’s first opportunity will be on Thursday with the 20km individual event and his second comes in the mass start three days later.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot,; Editing by Ed Osmond)