SportsBetween porous sanitary bubbles and Omicron, the preparation for...

Between porous sanitary bubbles and Omicron, the preparation for the Olympics turns into a Chinese puzzle for the athletes


Very stressed about life, by her own admission, the French freestyle skier Tess Ledeux has seen her blood pressure monitor rise a little more in the laps lately. In question, the explosion of the Omicron variant in Europe, combined with an Olympic deadline which is fast approaching. And we understand it: preparing for four years to meet on D-Day, in paj ‘with a plaid and a box of Doliprane on your sofa’ in La Plagne, that fucks her maaaaaaal.

“This fear is omnipresent in the head of each athlete and each member of the staff, warns the 2019 Big Air world champion. Already an Olympic season is particularly stressful, but there, with the Covid, it is total anguish! We are afraid of the test, we tell ourselves that if we catch it in the two weeks before departure we are screwed because the rules are super strict in China. “If this were to happen to him, Tess Ledeux is not ashamed to admit it:” I sincerely think that I will not get over it. It would be much harder to accept than an injury, for example. “

With less than three weeks before the start of the Olympic Games, while the World Cup events are linked, the entire Olympic circuit is chattering its teeth and praying to pass through the postilions. “Their biggest fear is the Covid, they are all protecting themselves like crazy so as not to catch it”, recalled the Minister for Sports, Roxana Maracineanu. But this is not always possible, as the slalomer Clément Noël recently pointed out, who denounced the “lack of consistency” of the health bubble put in place for the Alpine Skiing World Cup.

Sanitary bubbles, really?

“Limit, we can’t even talk about a sanitary bubble,” he tells us. Already because the hotels in which we stay are open to the public. In addition, tourists have not necessarily been tested because, to go to a hotel or a restaurant, it is enough to be vaccinated ”. If he has decided not to ignore the World Cup events, not all have made this choice. This is particularly the case of the Papadakis / Cizeron duo. Engaged in the European figure skating championships which are held this week in Tallinn, Estonia, the Olympic vice-champions in Pyeongchang have finally passed their turn. “Too risky”, according to their trainer Romain Haguenauer.

“The European Championships were only their third objective, after the Olympics and the World Championships. We were therefore not going to jeopardize the supreme objective, the Olympic gold medal, the only one they lack, for that, ”he continues. Especially since given the conditions offered on site, there was indeed something to scratch the skin: “No sanitary bubble, no PCR test on arrival in the country, at the hotel it’s open bar, there are average tourists mixed with skaters, athletes can go out into town freely, buses are common, the same goes for the locker rooms. Basically it’s the opposite of what I put in place around my athletes in Montreal. “

The hermit’s life, a sine qua non for going to Beijing

It must also be said that he trains eleven pairs of skaters there for the Olympics. “If there were a cluster in the school, almost half of the competitors at the Games would be in danger! He smiles. Since December, he has therefore implemented a strict bubble where the athletes do not cross paths, the changing rooms are closed and the mask is compulsory in all circumstances. He also invited his foals to isolate themselves as much as possible as the Games approach. “As Gabriella lives in a shared apartment, I asked her to rent out her own apartment. In fact, we make them live almost in lockdown [confinement], it’s home-rink and rink-home right now. “

A hermit’s life, that’s what everyday life looks like for more and more athletes as the deadline approaches. “It’s true that I was more careful than the other years, admits Tess Ledeux. I still celebrated Christmas with my family, but there were only five of us. I didn’t completely isolate myself either because I knew that if I caught it during the holidays, I still had time to recover and go to the Olympics. But it’s been over for a few days now, I don’t go out, I no longer go to restaurants and I limit my contacts as much as possible. “

Same caution on the side of Clément Noël, who no longer approaches anyone without presenting a negative test: “The rare times I go home between the tests, I only see my partner and she gets tested before I ‘come. And if I ever have to see other people, there, for example, I lodged a friend with months ago, he was tested before coming. At Christmas like that, my whole family got tested before Christmas Eve. We have no other choice… ”

“It weighs on the minds of athletes”

Omicron is an organizational problem with no name. With a wet finger, Alex Vanhoutte, the coach of the French bobsleigh team, believes that his workload has doubled compared to the world before. “All our decisions are made in relation to that, on travel choices, on schedules, on everything. The first thought, each time we want to make a decision, it is linked to the Covid. And we must be careful because if we miss it, it can have significant impacts, ”he breathes. At least he can console himself by telling himself that, unlike what we can see in figure skating or alpine skiing, the bubble put in place for the Bobsleigh World Cup really looks like something. Maybe too much, even.

Alex Vanhoutte: “We have just had a positive athlete in our European Cup team, but who was not in the same hotel as us, yet the FIS [la fédé internationale de ski] felt that, since it was the same nation, we were still a contact case. We are therefore no longer allowed to enter the locker room with the other teams. There, we are in Saint-Moritz, it is -19 ° and we had to tinker with a makeshift cloakroom in our van with a small auxiliary heater. However, despite this heavy context, the former professional bobsledder decided to play the bad news lightning rod.

“I still try not to put too much pressure on the team because I know it weighs on their minds. There are things I won’t tell them so as not to add more stress. We have to juggle the two: not to be too pessimistic at the risk of scaring them, and at the same time telling them to be careful. “And when it comes to sport and fun, we’ll wait until all these beautiful people arrive safe and sound in Beijing if you don’t mind.




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