Olympic lure proves irresistible for Lamy-Chappuis

A Nordic combined gold medallist at Vancouver 2010 and a flagbearer for France in Sochi four years later, Jason Lamy-Chappuis had become one of the most successful athletes in the history of his sport by the time he retired in 2015. But after qualifying as an airline pilot, he decided to strap his skis back on and is now aiming for more medals at his fourth Olympic Winter Games.

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At a special handover ceremony held in Paris (FRA) in October 2017, Jason Lamy-Chappuis, France’s flagbearer at the Sochi 2014 Opening Ceremony, passed a French tricolour to four-time biathlon medallist Martin Fourcade, the man who will succeed him in the role at PyeongChang 2018.

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Aside from its symbolic importance, the event also marked the return of the man affectionately known as “Jez” to the sporting scene. After hanging up his skis in 2015 to train as an airline pilot, Lamy-Chappuis, the Vancouver 2010 men’s individual normal hill/10km Nordic combined champion, decided to stage a dramatic comeback.

“What made me want to come back was the chance to experience feelings like this, to be part of a team once more, share everyday experiences with my team-mates and savour exciting moments again,” he explained. “And then there’s the fact that I was commentating on TV last winter, which made me want to get back out on the hills and the cross-country runs with my team-mates.”

Twelve years at the highest level

In between his victory at the European Youth Olympic Festival in Bled (SLO) in 2003 and his retirement 12 years later, Lamy-Chappuis put together one of the finest career records ever seen in Nordic combined.

The winner of 26 individual World Cup events and three consecutive overall World Cup titles between 2010 and 2012 (and a runner-up in 2007 and 2013), the Frenchman won 10 world championship medals in total – five of them gold – to go with that Olympic gold in Canada.

What made me want to come back was the chance to experience feelings like this, to be part of a team once more, share everyday experiences with my team-mates and savour exciting moments again Jason Lamy-Chappuis - Jason Lamy-Chappuis

Lamy-Chappuis began his Olympic journey in Turin in 2006. “They were my first Games, but I had a very gentle introduction because I stayed in an apartment next to the ski jumping hills in Pragelato, rather than in the Olympic Village,” he explained. “And that’s where the seed was sown. I finished fourth, I was 19, and I said to myself: ‘That’s OK. In four years I’ll have matured and things will go better’.”

The Frenchman arrived in Vancouver as the world No1 and confirmed his status by outsprinting the USA’s Johnny Spillane to win the men’s individual normal hill/10km. “Vancouver was a continuation of Turin,” said Lamy-Chappuis. “It was a perfect season. I’d truly arrived. They were my happiest memories, especially to win with a finish like that.”

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There were more happy Olympic memories for “Jez” in Sochi four years later, when he carried his country’s flag at the Opening Ceremony. On the downside, he failed to retain his title.

“I learned lots of things in Sochi,” he recalled. “There was the excitement of sharing incredible moments with the whole of the French Olympic team, and I also learned something on a sporting level because things didn’t go well for me: fatigue and managing stress and all the media pressure. It’s true what they say: either you win or you learn. You have to know how to be able to draw on all of that at a later stage.”

In and out of retirement

Born on 9 September 1986 to a French father and an American mother in Missoula (USA), but brought up in the French Jura mountains, Lamy-Chappuis collected the last of his five world championship medals to date in Falun (SWE) in 2015, when he paired up with François Braud to win the team sprint. In March that same year, he won his ninth French title before promptly retiring to devote his energies to flying lessons instead. 

Two years later, the ski jumper and cross-country skier was awarded his professional pilot’s licence. Taking up the story, he said: “My next objective was to get my airline pilot’s qualification and find work with a company.” The job will have to wait, however. In 2017, the former Olympic champion decided to clamp his skis back on. “I’ve been training since May 2017,” said Lamy-Chappuis. “To start with, it was very difficult to get back into the rhythm, but things are going much better now and I got some good results on the summer tour.

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“I need to be patient. I’ll get back to my level bit by bit,” he added. “I’m on an upward curve at the moment. I’ve really been going for it in training and if I keep this up, I should be in really good shape this winter. I can’t wait for the season to start, though I’d like to have a few more weeks to get into tip-top physical condition. Time goes quickly when you pass the 100-days-to-go mark. The World Cup will be starting before we know it. We’re going to Finland at the start of November, where we’ll be back in contact with the snow and getting back into the swing of things again.

“With all of us being together, we can look ahead to the Games and the Olympic Village. These will be my fourth Games, but I need to qualify first and have a good start to the season. Four Olympics! That’s not a bad career.”

At the age of 31, Lamy-Chappuis is now ready to experience more “incredible moments” at PyeongChang 2018, where he will harbour genuine hopes of making an impact in both the individual and team events.

“My team-mates are really giving me a hard time in training,” said the former Olympic champion. “We’ve got a strong team and the ability to achieve something big.”