PYEONGCHANG, South Korea, Feb 20 (Reuters) - Martin Fourcade drew on all his warrior instincts to continue his rewriting of French sporting history at the Pyeongchang Olympics by delivering team gold in the mixed relay on Tuesday.
He delivered a storming performance on the final leg to become the second French athlete to win three gold medals at a single Winter Games after Alpine skier Jean-Claude Killy.
The 29-year-old Fourcade was also the first athlete to claim three titles in Pyeongchang and he took his overall tally to a French record-extending five Olympic gold medals.
“It’s a beautiful story for this team, it’s a beautiful story for all the crew, who work really hard on our skis,” Fourcade told reporters.
“We often say that we are doing an individual sport but we are living more than 220 days a year together. Winning this medal together is something really emotional and we really enjoy it.”
Fourcade’s day job as a soldier may help his aim, but it is his never-say-die attitude that makes him so special.
He shot impeccably and skied brilliantly in the relay, making the most of errors by his opponents as he swept to victory, waving the tricolour flag as he skated across the line and into the arms of his waiting team mates.
“I was very stressed because it is not a race like any other one, individual races. I go fast in the first lap and (I’m) shooting and no question in my head - go, just that,” he said.
After a poor start to the Games in the sprint, Fourcade found his range and won the pursuit before edging out German Simon Schempp in a thriller to take the mass start gold.
His performances have prompted congratulatory messages from French President Emmanuel Macron, but on Tuesday he had to share the plaudits with his team mates.
“It is not a man that crosses the finish line, but a team, and picks up the gold once again. Inspiring demonstration of the strength of the collective,” Macron said on Twitter.
For all the President’s celebration of the team, however, the French relay victory was firmly rooted in Fourcade’s refusal to accept second-best.
Reporting by Philip O'Connor, editing by Ed Osmond