It is hard to overestimate the role of family dynasties in sports, with traditions and lifestyles that continue from generation to generation. The world of biathlon is full of families including Anton Shipulin and Anastasiya Kuzmina, Simon and Martin Fourcade, Valja and Vita Semerenko. However the three Claude brothers, all competing in biathlon at the same tine are unique.
The Claude brothers grew up in a sports family, their mother was a champion cross-country skier in France; no wonder they knew how to ski from the early age. Despite their age differences and following different paths to biathlon, 24-year-old Florent, 21-year old Fabien and 17-year-old Fabien all have won medals in international competition. The family trophy case holds 18 prizes Gold medals from the Youth Olympic Games, Youth/Junior World Championships, Open European Championships and IBU Cup victories.
The oldest brother, Florent, started biathlon when he was 10 years old. He admits that except of the love for skiing and shooting, there was one more thing, “It was the time of Raphael Poirée and I really wanted to be like him, when I was young. Of course, I tried some other sports like football, cycling, but I was better in skiing and biathlon.” So was his brother Fabien, who also competed in biathlon and cross-country until he was 15 and had to pick one sport or the other. He really liked training with the brother and being around him, so the choice was not so hard, “I picked biathlon, so I could be with Florent, not to mention the fun side with the shooting.”
Emilien also wanted to become an athlete, but he had another option; as a kid he dreamed of a boxing career like Rocky Balboa. Yet, the family affection for skiing and biathlon outweighed this childhood ambition, and the youngest Claude followed his brothers, “My mother was a cross-country skiing champion, so of course she taught us her passion. We all knew how to ski from the early age. When my brothers grew up, they also started shooting and doing biathlon; and I followed the family plan since 2005-06.” Although Emilien does not remember his first shooting experience, there was one moment that stayed in his memory, “I remember there was one time, when my mother has changed my target. She replaced it with one of the brothers’ which had more good shots on it. Now,I understand she did it in order to make me happy!”
Power of Three
The advantage the Claude brothers have is simple, the power of three: they always help and support each other, give advice and suggestions, share victories and defeats. Emilien admits that his current success is thanks to his brothers. Likewise Fabien admits he owes his success from Florent. “Florent told me everything and I’m happy about that. When one of us learns something that is important and helps, he tells it to the others. That is really special and important. Last season, I was in the same room with him and it was great to talk about problems, self-confidence… A brothers’ help is really important, and it is much easier to progress because we are three!” Although Florent is the oldest and has more experience, he also listens to the youngsters. “I have something new for them, and they have something useful for me, so we always share. I can give some advice about shooting, skiing or the preparation for the competition… It’s important for me that we do the same sport; we can share our experiences, and always trust each other.”
The brothers really like to train together when they are at home; but also they always take the opportunity to compete against each other and find out who is stronger, especially in the “shooting games.” Fabien emphasized this point. “We like to be in the showdown!” The Claude brothers enjoy being together, and that includes plenty of joking and teasing. Florent commented, “We’re very often together and of course we have fun. For example, we play poker, and when someone looses, he gets mad and throws all the chips on the floor…” At the same time, Emilien mentions completely different game, and no wonder why, “When we are at home, we have a real competition on PlayStation. We usually play “FIFA”, the famous football game, and I am the best at that!”
But when it comes to the real competitions on the tracks, the brothers always worry about each other and try to follow the results, whenever possible. Sometimes it is impossible, like as when Emilien won the Sprint Gold at the Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer. Florent remembers, “Unfortunately Fabien and I couldn’t follow that race because we had a competition too. But when we knew that he won with 10 out of 10, we were very happy for him. It is always very difficult to do the perfect race in the biggest competition of the year, and he did! It was a great day for him!” Emilien admits that the brothers are happy about his achievement, but sometimes like to tease him in a good way, “They are happy for me. At times, they laugh and spoof me about it; “You are the Olympic Champion”, but it’s just a way to keep me humble.”
“They are happy for me. At times, they laugh and spoof me about it; “You are the Olympic Champion”, but it’s just a way to keep me humble.”
Different Goals, One Dream
Now the Claude brothers are preparing for the new season, but this year will be different; Florent will compete for the Belgian team now, “Of course it has been a difficult decision, but I’m very happy about my new project. I would like to thank France for all the years; the Belgian team for their beautiful reception and all people who support me in my decision. My goals for the upcoming years are to compete in the World Cup, the IBU World Championships and the Olympic Winter Games.” Fabien also wants to compete on the WC stage and have some good results next season, while the highlight for Emilien will be the IBU YJWCH. Even though their goals are different, they have the same dream – to stand atop of the podium and share their successes with each other!