He is 41 years old and has never won a World Cup race in 19 years on the circuit but Frenchman Johan Clarey is far from an outsider in Sunday’s men’s downhill at the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Clarey headed to China having finished second and fifth in the classic downhills at Kitzbuehel last month, performances that suggested he has hit peak form at just the right moment.
His performance in Austria made him the oldest man to finish on a World Cup podium and he would earn the same accolade with a medal in China.
Listening to the Frenchman, the outcome could depend on which version of the veteran wakes up on race day.
“Some days I am feeling like I am 30, maybe a little less,” he said. “But some days I am feeling 50 or 60 years old.
“I have some good days but I have to be lucky that these good days are on race day. In Kitzbuehel everything was fine. Hopefully here in Beijing it could be the same,” he said.
Clarey has had nine podium finishes on the World Cup circuit spanning the past 12 years and this will be his fourth Olympic downhill.
The secret to his longevity is, he says, hard work and appreciation of the physical state he needs to maintain.
“I just keep working, focusing on my body, listening to my feelings. I just have the passion for my sport and the key secret is to keep believing in myself,” he said.
Clarey also credits his wife Perrine for maintaining his positive approach.
“She keeps me young. She keeps me pushing when I am saying, ‘Oh, I am too tired, I am too old for this s—‘. She says, ‘Oh, you are not too old’.”
Thursday’s opening training session was the first chance for the world’s top skiers to get to know the brand new course created for the Winter Games and Clarey was pleasantly surprised.
“It was easier than I thought. On inspection I thought there was going to be more speed. I made a few mistakes … but it’s super pleasant, all in the sun. It’s not often you have that at the World Cup. It’s rather interesting. I found it fun,” he said.