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Ski-crazy locals lay on warm reception

China Daily | Updated: 2020-01-20 08:59
Britain's Shawna Pendry in action during the Women's Biathlon Individual 10km at the 2020 Winter Youth Olympics inLes Rousses, France, Jan 11, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

It's hard not to be beguiled by the rustic charm of the ski-centric French village of Les Rousses.

Situated in the Jura Mountains near the border with Switzerland, the village's Les Tuffes Nordic Center hosted biathlon, ski jumping and Nordic combined during the Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games, which concluded on Sunday.

The enthusiasm with which the locals engaged with the competitions made it an extra special venue.

As cross-country skiers powered over the biathlon course, people rang bells and roared "Allez!" (Go!), while cries of "Oui!" (Yes!) rang out as athletes hit their targets in the shooting section.

"The crowds pushed us forward. Without doubt we could use it to gain some seconds in skiing," said French biathlete Jeanne Richard, who along with Mathieu Garcia won gold in the single mixed relay race.

"I'm not surprised because I know people here really appreciate biathlon and all sports. They are here to support all athletes, not only the French athletes," said Marie-Laure Brunet, a retired French biathlete who won a bronze medal in the women's pursuit at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

All the biathlon events at Les Tuffes were free for the public to attend.

"It's very important for these young athletes to live the Olympic experience, to be supported by everybody. With free entrance, it's easier to attract crowds. It's a good thing for the young, for schools, for the crowds and for families," Brunet added.

Around 3,500 local school kids were invited to watch Tuesday's men's and women's sprint races."We are quite happy to be here," one kid said.

Chinese competitor Shi Yuanyuan was pleasantly surprised when, after finishing an interview, he was surrounded by kids asking for his autograph.

"It's the first time for our athletes to be interviewed and be surrounded by autograph hunters like that," said Jiang Yang, an official in charge of the Chinese biathlon team.

"The atmosphere felt pretty good here. Kids would shout 'hurray' as athletes hit the target. It felt like being at a World Cup meet."

It wasn't just the Chinese team which was feeling the love.

"Everything about the vibe here is really positive. We are supposed to leave tomorrow, but we don't want to leave," said Russian competitor Denis Irodov.

"It's almost a perfect place for biathlon, especially during the Youth Olympics. I really hope this venue will have many more competitions in the coming years."

Tony Estanguet, president of the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics' organizing committee, hailed the cross-border cooperation between France and Switzerland.

"This is the first time such an Olympic event has been held by two countries working together. There has been a fantastic collaboration between the two countries and the two organizing committees," he told Xinhua.

"The result is just amazing. The crowds are very excited. The athletes are very happy."


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