It was not given that 35-year-old Maurice Manificat would be a part of the French team to the 2022 Olympics. Nor that he would be selected for the relay team. But on Sunday, the seasoned veteran anchored France to their first cross-country medals at the 2022 Olympics.
While the Russians were in a league of their own at the men’s 4×10-kilometer relay, winning by more than a minutes to the Norwegian team in second place, the French relay team was thrilled to make the podium: The bronze was golden for the “Tricolore.”
This was the third consecutive relay podium for the French men at the Olympics. Maurice Manificat has been a part of all those three teams, twice as the anchor: First at the Sochi Olympics in 2014 and on Sunday in Beijing. At the 2018 Olympics in Korea, Manificat skied the second leg.
Bumpy road to the 2022 Olympics
However, Manificat’s road to the 2022 Olympics has been a bumpy ride.
Most of the summer, he was nursing a severe groin injury. Then he injured himself during a workout just prior to the Tour de Ski, which forced him to sit out the prestigious FIS stage race.
In fact, Manificat was named to the 2022 Olympic team based on only two World Cup results: A tenth place in Lillehammer the first weekend in December, and an eighth place in Davos the following weekend. They were decent performances, but hardly exceptional.
Prior to the relay on Sunday, Manificat was 23rd in the 30-kilometer skiathlon on February 6, and 12th in the 15-kilometer classic event on Friday, February 11. It was not given that Manificat would be selected for the relay at the Olympics. Most had expected the national team coaches to go with 26-year-old Jules Lapierre.
Still, France’s distance coach Alexandre Rousselet gambled on the 35-year-old veteran for the anchor leg. “Momo has a unique ability to close gaps. He has improved as the day by day from the start of the Olympics, and is clearly in the groove these days,” Rousselet said to L’Equipe.
And Rousselet was right. As soon as Clement Parisse tagged Manificat, the veteran set out to chase down Norway’s super star Johannes Høsflot Klæbo. Maurice Manificat stuck with the World Cup leader to the end, until Klæbo surged with a few hundred yards to go. At the finish line, the gap was less than 10 seconds. But for the French relay team, third place was a huge victory.
Behind Russia and Norway, Les Bleus won an incredible bronze medal, the first of these Beijing 2022 Olympic Games in cross-country skiing.
The next cross-country event at the 2022 Olympics is the team sprint on Wednesday, February 16. Semifinals for both men and women start at 10am, while the finals start at noon.
FACTS: 2022 OLYMPICS
What: XXIV Olympic Winter Games (24th edition)
Beijing 2022 – All you need to know
Where: Beijing, China
Biathlon, cross-country skiing and Nordic events will take place at the Zhangjiakou arena, situated at and above 1650 meters above sea level.
When: February 4 to 20, 2022
What happens when:
Complete schedule for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, all sports.
Who: 53 cross-country teams compete at the 2022 Olympics, each fielding from 1 to 16 athletes.
All the cross-country ski teams to the Beijing Winter Olympics
How: Where to watch the Olympics – World Wide
Results, start lists and competition details for all events at the 2022 Beijing Olympics will be posted here
Beijing Olympics homepage