ROSA KHUTOR, Russia, Feb 6 (Reuters) - Four years after showing glimpses of his huge potential at the Vancouver Games, Martin Fourcade is in full swing as the Frenchman targets a golden haul at the Sochi Olympics - but he is no Michael Phelps.
The biathlon overall World Cup leader, who won silver in the mass start in 2010 at the age of 21, will enter all the individual races - individual, mass start, sprint, pursuit - as a favourite, having dominated the circuit for the last two years and claiming all World Cup titles last season.
“We’ve been talking about Sochi for four years, I really want to race now,” Fourcade told a news conference on Thursday, two days before the opening race, the 7.5-km sprint.
“It’s going be two long days of waiting. I could not have arrived here better prepared. It’s not a guarantee of a good result but it’s definitely important.”
The pressure is high on Fourcade, who at home has been identified as one of the top potential medal providers.
Asked if he could be the Michael Phelps of the Games, he replied: “It’s a bit too cold for me to wander on the snow in my underwear.”
Former French great Raphael Poiree, now a pundit for Norwegian TV, believes Fourcade has an advantage over his rivals, among whom is Norway’s Emil Hegle Svendsen.
“The race is in altitude (about 1,500 metres) and he excels in these conditions, much more than anyone else,” Poiree told reporters.
There is room for improvement, though, and even a trap the Frenchman must avoid if he is to shine.
“He can improve his prone shooting but he is so fast on the skis,” said Poiree.
Pressure is the enemy, according to Poiree.
“What is tough for him is that biathlon is popular every four years in France. Very, very popular,” he said.
”And you have some media who know not much about the sport who just expect a lot of medals having looked at the previous Olympics results.
“That’s not the reality. It may be the only negative thing he will have to deal with.” (Editing by Ed Osmond)