Q&A Mathieu Faivre
The French team is a reference in the giant slalom with many different athletes in the run for podium placements. One of them is rather quiet as a person, but very focused and ambitious as an athlete: it's Mathieu Faivre. He claimed his first World Cup win this season, score two further podium placements and ended 2nd of the season standings; as many good reasons to have a talk with him.
You were born in Nizza, a place known more for its wonderful beaches than for its ski slopes. Can you explain us how you started skiing and continued all the way to become a professional ski racer?
Yes, I was born in Nizza, but I grow up in Isola 2000, a mountain resort located 1h20 from the Côte d’Azur. So as most ski resort kids, I started sliding as soon as I was able to walk, with my dad and my granddad. Then I followed the normal curriculum, going through all the usual steps and categories. When I was 15, I had to leave Isola 2000 and my family to settle down in Savoy and benefit from the best possible training conditions. This is when I joined the Club des Sports de la Plagne for my first FIS year. Good results in this first season allowed me to directly integrate the French national team and become a professional skier.
The latest since last season we had you on the short list for a giant slalom win. And in December it clicked; you won the race in Val d’Isère. How did it feel to reach that goal? Was it even more special to achieve this in France?
It was an unbelievable day. Everything worked out perfectly and I was able to ski at my best. It was a great satisfaction to realise that when I set things up correctly over two runs, I am in the position to win a race. As a matter of fact, winning in front of a French crowd was special, especially as Val d’Isère is one of my favorite venues. With four Frenchmen in the five top positions, I felt very proud to offer this performance to the French ski fans.
After the first run, you were +0.01 behind leader Marcel Hirscher and ahead of your teammates and main contenders Thomas Fanara, Victor Muffat-Jeandet and Alexis Pinturault. How did you handle the pressure?
We were lucky enough to have our hotel very close to the race slope, so I returned to my room between the runs, had a power nap and listened to music. It helped me a lot to cool down and not to think too much before the second run.
Val d’Isère was not just a lucky punch, you have been constant the whole season and managed to grab the second place in the season ranking. Does this achievement mean even more than a single win to you?
Yes. I am very happy I was able to win in Val d’Isère, but I’m even more proud that I was able to be constant throughout the season and finish second of the season standings. Consistency is something I give a lot of importance to and definitely something I am looking for. To have reached that goal is fantastic and a great satisfaction.
The giant slalom field is very dense, with more than ten athletes having earned a podium placement this season. What are your strengths, and what do you have to work on to close the gap between leader Marcel Hirscher and you?
True, the density in giant slalom was impressive last season. Next season we will be racing with new skis, therefore I think it’s important to focus on the material we use and find the perfect setup. It’s important not to miss the boat and lose the momentum if I want to stay at the top.
This season, you also started in a super-g and in an alpine combined. Are you planning to start in those disciplines in the future? In what way does this diversity help you?
Yes, it is something me and my coaches were aiming for in the last seasons. It’s important to me to have other goals and not simply focus on the giant slalom. It’s also good to keep the rhythm up during the whole season. But I also like the other disciplines, so it’s a pleasure to train and race in the speed disciplines or even in slalom.
At the World Championships, you have been a decisive element in the final of the alpine team event and could celebrate your first World Champion gold medal. Do you like this format? Is this a focus for the upcoming Olympic Games in PyeongChang?
Yes, I like the format a lot, it’s something else than the traditional disciplines. Of course, as the alpine team event will be Olympic for the first time, we also integrated this in our training plans and we plan to have a strong team at the start.
What are your personal goals for next season? We can imagine the Olympic giant slalom being at the top of the list.
My goal is to keep progressing, as I did in the last seasons. I didn’t plan to reach my peak performance in February for the Olympics, but I want to be competitive and in a consistent good shape over the whole season.
How do you prepare for these goals during summer time? Do you enjoy dryland season or are you impatient to return on the ski slopes?
We have an important preparation phase with dryland training in June, so the skis are stored until mid-July. I just enjoyed very nice holidays at the beach, so the motivation is there, but for sure after four or five weeks, I will be happy to go back on my skis.