Beijing 2022 Olympics: Perrine Laffont, the epicurean of bumps

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Perrine Laffont, mogul ski champion, member of the French freestyle skiing team on the shores of Lake Annecy on November 22, 2021.

Perrine Laffont does not want to "take the lead". The Grail, she has already conquered it, so she is going to the Beijing Olympics “to have fun”. On Sunday February 6, at Zhangjiakou Genting Snow Park, the 23-year-old young woman will defend her Olympic title in mogul skiing, obtained in 2018. Since that date, she has been the almost undisputed queen of the discipline. In four years, his record has grown to four crystal globes in the overall World Cup standings (2018, 2019, 2020, 2021) and two world titles (2019 and 2021) in addition to that reported in Andalusia 2017.

“Pep” – her nickname – dominates her sport so much that she has made her victories trivial, leaving only crumbs for her rivals, like last season when she took four of the five World Cup stages, shortened due to Covid-19. What overflow with confidence and certainties before the Chinese Olympic meeting.

However, the Pyrenean – the only one of the tricolor delegation in Beijing – no longer wants " [s] e rot life" to say to herself "if I don't win, it's a disaster". "I just want to take things lightly," she confides, all smiles, to Le Monde at the end of November 2021, in the living room of the Imperial, a majestic Belle Epoque hotel on the shores of Lake Annecy. She repeats it like a mantra throughout the interview, she skis “for pleasure above all else” . It has not always been the case.

“Competitions are a chore”

After the "failure" of the Sochi Games (Russia), where she finished 14 th, Perrine Laffont knows the Olympic consecration February 11, 2018 in Pyeongchang. It is the first gold medal of the French delegation in South Korea. The young woman is only 19 years old; the media, which hold their fine story, tear it away. Legion of Honor and first crystal globe in stride, everything seems to smile at the Ariégeoise: “It is true that the year 2018 was the pinnacle , still savors the young woman today. And then I cracked. »

In the spring of 2019, the champion had a "mini burn-out". “I absolutely had to be the best all the time, everyone expected me to win. It was benevolent, but I couldn't stand this pressure from people and the media anymore, ”she explains. Lasse, the new French mogul star plans to hang up.

“I was at home, with my mental trainer, and I said to her: I can't take it anymore, I'm going to training with a ball in my stomach, competitions are a chore. I have no pleasure in traveling, in training; I no longer want that daily life.” So we talked for hours and hours. »

Ludovic Didier, the champion's coach since her World Cup debut in January 2014, remembers "very difficult times". “We had to find the words, remobilise, go back to training with a more fun goal and no longer focused on the aspect of results and competitions. But Perrine is someone who doesn't give up that easily. »

Little by little, she regained a taste for skiing sessions, hours spent indoors pushing cast iron, internships with the French team… “If I wanted to train, I would go there. Otherwise, I was going to do something else. “ Winter is approaching, she wonders about her participation in the 2019-2020 World Cup circuit, decides to go. “And there, I am having the best season of my career [eight wins in ten races] , I had completely forgotten this obligation of results. I just wanted to ski, not necessarily to win; and that's where I was the best. »

In a short film made with a childhood friend, Road to Beijing 2022, released in the fall of 2021, she tells how she chased away her post-Pyeongchang spleen.

The Monts d'Olmes as a refuge

Four years later, Perrine Laffont necessarily knows that she is eagerly awaited in Beijing. So, to protect herself from it, she tries to get back into her “bubble”. The young woman is also better armed, advised by a lawyer – the same as that of Kylian Mbappé – for her sponsorship contracts and by a press officer for media requests.

The three-time moguls world champion can also count on her mental trainer, Cécilia Delage, who has been listening to her moods since 2013. Her friends too, first and foremost Camille Cabrol, her partner in the France team, her early confidante – “I am there for her, and she is there for me. We know it, that's how it rolls, ” summarizes the latter.

But Perrine draws her real strength from her clan, her family, originally from the Monts d'Olmes, a small resort in Ariège, with whom she likes to recharge her batteries. His parents, Jean-Jacques and Dominique, figures of the local mogul ski club, now divorced. Her grandparents, André and Pierrette, to whom she is very close. At their mention, his eyes light up. “My grandma, it's a phew! It follows mogul skiing like crazy. It's borderline if she knows my competitors better than me. All the press articles about me, she prints them, classifies them. She says her little prayers, the little candles, things and everything

Perrine Laffont, member of the French freestyle ski team, specializing in mogul skiing, in Annecy on Monday November 22, 2021.

As is often the case in the mountains, Perrine put on her skis as soon as she knew how to walk. Her father, a pioneer in moguls in the Pyrenees, gives her her first rudiments, enrolls her at the age of 6 in her first competitions, where she quickly gets noticed. The young champion swears only by skiing – “I didn't like sitting all day on a school bench” –, moguls more than downhill, “too rigid, not fun enough”. She multiplies the round trips between the Alps, for competitions, and her native Pyrenees. At 14, she joined the French mogul ski team before competing, a year later, in her first Olympic Games in Sochi.

Uninhibited competition

Since then, the Ariègeoise has rolled her bump. Even if, this season, she dominates the circuit less outrageously, the fault of an increasingly uninhibited competition, in particular the Australian Jakara Anthony and the Japanese Anri Kawamura, the two girls who will compete with her for gold at the Olympic Games, in believe the coach of the French. His impressive but harmless fall – one of the few of his career – in mid-December, during the World Cup stage in Alpe-d'Huez, was a warning signal. The Pyrenean quickly corrected the situation, winning twice in January in North America.

However, it will take a little more than smiles and fun to get, this February 6, a new Olympic title. She will have to prove her “warrior” mentality, which Ludovic Didier, her trainer, lends her. Camille Cabrol completes: “When she is at the top of the track, Perrine, she is impressive, she is scary, she knows what she wants and will do everything to get there. »

bReputed to be the best skier on the circuit, fast, fluid and aesthetic, the queen of moguls does not yet know if she will add a technical difficulty – a “grab” – to her signature jump, the D-Spin 720 (a jump back somersault, arms and legs extended, with two off-axis turns), which would earn him valuable points in his quest for Olympic gold. But Ludovic Didier is convinced: “She will be ready for Beijing because she has found her skiing, she has found her jumps and she is in good spirits. »

"I had the chance to realize my wildest dreams," confided to us in Annecy Perrine Laffont, white down jacket and sneakers with wedge soles, curled up in the hollow of a comfortable armchair at the Imperial. The young woman surely did not imagine such a fairy tale when, at the age of 6, she climbed on her first podium in competition, in her Pyrenees. That day, she had refused to pick up her medal, in tears, paralyzed with fear. More than fifteen years later, she will set off "without pressure" on Sunday February 6 in the defense of her title. In the event of an Olympic double – unprecedented for women – “Pep” would extend his reign over the moguls even further.

Perrine Laffont in a few dates

October 28, 1998 Birth in Lavelanet (Ariège).

Winter 2004-2005 First competition in mogul skiing, at only 6 years old.

February 2014 Takes part in his first Olympic Games in Sochi (Russia), where she finished 14th.

February 27, 2016 First victory in the World Cup, in Thaiwoo (China).

March 9, 2017 First title of world champion, in the parallel event, in Spain. Another will follow two years later, in the United States.

February 11, 2018 Gold medal at the Pyeongchang Olympics (South Korea).

March 18, 2018 First overall World Cup crystal globe. She will win three more in 2019, 2020 and 2021.

March 8, 2021 World Champion, singles.

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