In partnership with Nordic Magazine, the new TUESDAY TALK features French head coach Jerome Laheurte, who tells us all about the big goal for this season: an Olympic medal in the team event. But also about his athletes’ development and an update on returnee superstar Jason Lamy Chappuis was in order.
Jerome, after half a year of training, first of all the question: how is your team doing?
Jerome Laheute: Our summer went very well, without any big glitches. For some athletes, it went perfectly, others struggled with minor diseases but nothing bad. We are satisfied with the preparation on the jumping side and also in cross-country skiing, in which we are still increasing the intensities, as could also be seen at the last weekend of the Summer Grand Prix in Planica.
We have a fairly dense level in the group on the jumping hill. Maxime Laheurte is the locomotive for the team, ahead of a very surprising Laurent Muhlethaler. Jason Lamy Chappuis has taken some good steps and shows good jumps, he’s just still getting tired a little faster than the rest.
As you mentioned, the performance in Planica was good, actually for the whole French team…
Laheurte: Yes, the group worked very well. Everybody is having fun and the group dynamic is great. Everybody works towards the same goal, a medal with the team. It has been since Nagano in 1998 that the French team has not won an Olympic medal in the team event. We would like to re-write that history. Since the World Championships in 2009, we have always won a medal in the team event but not in the Olympics. We have a difficult memory of Sochi to deal with but with the return of Jason to the team, we have the desire to shine, as a team and individually. Everybody is pushing themselves to the maximum.
Isn’t it also your job to make sure that everybody is progressing, without leaving anybody behind?
Laheurte: Certainly, though you cannot afford to change how you organise things in an Olympic year. But we tried to individualise the preparations as much as possible and take the state of each athlete into account. We try to make sure they can make the most out of their potential individually but also put it in service to the team and to a good working atmosphere. These athletes wish to shine together.
Did the comeback of Jason Lamy Chappuis also bring a return of media attention around the French team and ultimately, also the public?
Laheurte: Yes, it’s a double-edged sword. The team has existed without him for the last two years and we’ve had success with Francois Braud, who won an individual medal in Falun and Lahti. This is something that I am not getting tired out pointing out to the media (laughs). But this is how the media business operates and we have made it work for the team. Francois is not the kind of person to take the attention on Jason in a bad way. On the sports side, he is looking for the best possible result. The renewed media interest is pleasant, especially for an Olympic year.
Jason is looking very serene and in a good place these days…
Laheurte: Yes, absolutely. He has been working on the level of a junior in the summer but also with the motivation of a junior! (laughs). He is super dutiful in everything that he does. He is preparing like in 2009, before his Olympic triumph. We have to give him time. He is aware of what he can do on the hill and on the track and he is covering the terrain bit by bit. We are confident that he has the capacity to become competitive. He also sees that he has increased the level on the jumping hill in particular as he must be better these days than he used to be in the past. Months passed and doubts faded away. He knows he is good comparing to Max on the jumping hill and with Hugo Buffard, he also has a good benchmark when it comes to skiing.