Preview: France can expect more success at PyeongChang Winter Olympics

Source: Xinhua| 2018-01-26 10:40:37|Editor: Shi Yinglun
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By Sportswriter Su Bin

PARIS, Jan. 25 (Xinhua) -- France will dispatch 108 athletes to the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. France won 15 medals at the Sochi Olympics four years ago, and will look to better that medal haul this year.

Following Thursday's announcement of a second batch of 89 athletes, nine spots are still up for grabs in alpine skiing.

The headlines will undoubtedly go to biathlete Martin Fourcade, the 20km individual and 12.5km pursuit Olympic gold medalist in Sochi. Fourcade also bagged a silver medal in 15km mass start.

Following his phenomenal six successive World Cup victories, Fourcade is currently on top of the leader boards as he has achieved a podium finish in all 15 non-team races this season. He is the flag bearer for the French delegation in PyeongChang.

Fourcade anticipates much tougher challenges from a Norwegian, not the 43-year-old "Cannibal" Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, but a much younger and more competitive Johannes Thingnes Boe. Boe even beat Fourcade in eight races this season.

Fourcade expressed his excitement about the "history-making" duel with the younger Boe.

"Today it's hard to say who the best biathlete in the world is. It's going to be a great battle. If we manage to keep our duel, it will mark the history of biathlon," he said.

Snowboarder Pierre Vaultier and freestyle skier Jean-Frederic Chapuis, two Sochi gold medalists, are also ready to defend their titles.

French Skiing Federation technical director Fabien Saguez announced a target of 20 medals for the country's snow sports in PyeongChang.

All 15 Olympic medals in 2014 came from snow sports, a clear sign of the country's disadvantage in ice sports.

However, they can still expect more on the ice this year, especially from the pair of Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron who are well on their way to pursuing perfection.

Papadakis and Cizeron were among the first batch of 10 athletes, all from ice sports, announced last December.

The unparalleled pair left no spotlight for other ice dancers with their dominant displays at last year's ISU (International Skating Union) Grand Prix of Figure Skating and the European Championships earlier this month.

Back at the ISU Grand Prix Audi Cup of China, the French duo became the first to ever cross the 200-point mark, before continuing to better their own world record twice later in the season.

They showed no sign of slowing down in 2018, when they won their fourth straight European championship with another world-leading 203.16 points.

"Perfection does not exist, but this season is up to our expectations," said Papadakis in a recent interview with French media.

"I think we still have a lot of room for improvement. We know where we can still pick up some points," partner Cizeron echoed ahead of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics to be held from February 9 to 25.