Marie Bochet: Living life intensely
The competitions are almost over, the season is over, the snow is disappearing, spring is underway. While the skier Marie Bochet, who has an agenesis (malformation) of the left forearm, did not escape the virus, she declares to have, despite everything, taken “everything there was to take” from this very special year. After “skiing intensely”, always on runs reserved for professional athletes, training in Europe, having multiple PCR tests, and at her home, in Savoie… “we did DIY!”, summarises this voracious sportswoman. Organisational uncertainty was ultimately the hardest thing to cope with for someone so accustomed to disciplined daily agendas fixed almost four years in advance. Her biggest regret? Not having the chance to visit China to try out the brand new runs for the 2022 Paralympic Winter Games. Marie would have liked to have prepared as well as possible for her fourth Paralympic Games and discover the local culture, snow, travel, etc. “Going there allows you to dive right in and be ready to perform. I’m used to taking a lot of elements and benchmarks into account”, she says. “We need to be very adaptable, but that are the lessons to take away from this year. It has certainly changed the way we do things.”
The objective is all the more important for Marie Bochet who, having learned to ski only a few years after having learned to walk, is now coming to terms with this probably being her last Paralympiad.
Born in Chambéry in wintertime, Marie Bochet was already hitting the slopes at five years old, before joining the Arêches- Beaufort skiclub, in Savoie, at 13, and participating in the Vancouver games at the age of 16. “Ijust touched the podium with the tip of my skis, with fourth place twice.” Since then, the champion, supported by Societe Generale since 2010, has continued to add to her record. This is on display over three screens of her website: four gold medals in Sochi in 2014, as many in Pyeongchang in 2018, twenty World Champion titles, 126World Cup podiums and 35European Cup victories across five disciplines (downhill, super-combined, Super-G, slalom and giant slalom)!
One of the many medals won by Marie Bochet.
Marie Bochet, in Arêches-Beaufort, both her haven of peace and her training ground.
The mountains are not just a place, they also embody values: respect for others, solidarity with the people we work with…
“Sport defined me”
Beyond the “sensations of flight, gliding or lightness, skiing is a moment when you are truly the master. It all depends on you. It’s a moment of pure freedom”, recalls the soon-to-be graduate from SciencesPo Paris. “You learn a lot. It’s a hard and gentle e ort at the same time but once you have the gold medal around your neck, it’s unique and extraordinary, you understand why you’ve made all those sacrifices”. Intellectually disciplined to win, the Savoy native thanks her physical and family environment as a source of inspiration.
They were not a family of champions or even athletes, but farmers, “who took few holidays, always worked outdoors… It infused my education. Sport has guided my life. It composed, shaped and defined me.”
The mountain, a dream “office”
This singular personality, who defends the values of work, perseverance, the desire to give everything, has cultivated a strong attachment to her Beaufortain region. “When you get to the top of the ski-station, you say to yourself ‘wow, the o ice!’”, exclaims the ultra-sportswoman. “The mountains are not just a place, they also embody values: respect for others, solidarity with the people we work with…” Time outside, in limited supply during lockdown, was very important. When not out on the slopes, the skier gardens, barters with her neighbours and sees her relatives a lot. “I’m pretty selfless. I have this feeling, similar to that of a sailor at sea, that alone you are nothing. Here, we will always find someone”, says Marie to herself, who is not considering straying far from her roots. As far as top competition is concerned, that’s another matter...
“Great athletes do not make good old people. That we know”, recalls someone who has spent fourteen of her 27years in the France team. “The end of a career in sport is the culmination of a long psychological process. This is what remains, the last memory”, Marie Bochet explains.
Given that she will soon be in her thirties, she is betting big on the Games in China. “We find ourselves facing ourselves, facing nothingness. There is almost no way back, in a sense. Rather like having a child: you have to completely redefine yourself, and it’s an ongoing process. I will leave part of my life behind, even if my first passion will always be an important part of who I am.”
The future is emerging
Her post-Beijing future might well revolve around the values of education. She has no specific project yet but “a lot of things interest me: team management, circuit organisation... I need to be moving, having meetings, sharing, all in a winter universe.” This young woman, who evolved in a male-dominated environment, can now see herself more working with children rather than with high-level teams. While parasport has taken the lead on parity –Guislaine Westelynck is president of the French Handisport Federation, Marie-Amélie LeFur, president of the Paralympic committee– Marie admits to having always been treated a little like a man. The considerations surrounding the condition of the athlete in the games –putting sport at the centre, forgetting politics– concerns her just as much. Her agenesis does not prevent her from being very manual and creative, it will however take time for her to be able to do something with her hands. “Perhaps it is because athletic performance lacks something that’s concrete?” she asks herself.
Being an advocate
While the relationship to the body begins to be adressed di erently, Marie does not consider her “sportsman’s tool” as that di erent. Standing skier –categoryLW682, that of the least disabled– she gets along just fine with only six fingers: “Ikeep learning. I’m not really bothered about not having a second hand”, she admits. “My real desire is to share. Thanks to sporting performance, many of us have brought disability to light. This gives confidence to others and shows that real performance can be achieved in disabled sport. Inspiring, confronting, being an advocate with a di erent perspective on society, that’s how I see things because disability is actually the little key that opened doors for me.”