Martin Fourcade, France’s most decorated Winter Olympian, retiring from biathlon

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Martin Fourcade, France’s most decorated Winter Olympian with seven medals and five golds, announced a surprise retirement on Friday at age 31, the International Biathlon Union confirmed.

Fourcade is expected to make Saturday’s World Cup 12.5km pursuit in Finland the last race of his career. It’s also the last race of the season, which will end prematurely due to the coronavirus.

Fourcade has been a force for nearly a decade: seven straight World Cup overall titles from 2012-18, 28 world championships medals, including 13 golds, and five gold medals between the last two Olympics.

Last season, Fourcade struggled with zero world championships medals for the first time since 2010 and a 12th-place finish in the overall standings. This season, he is battling Norwegian rival Johannes Thingnes Bø for the overall title going into Saturday’s finale.

Only Norwegian Ole Einar Bjørndalen owns more Olympic biathlon gold medals (eight), world titles (20) or World Cup victories (94) than Fourcade.

Fourcade, born in Céret, near the Spanish border in the south of France, began cross-country skiing at 6 and switched to biathlon at 13. He followed older brother Simon, who competed in three Olympics.

Fourcade developed a successful method that other biathletes copied — making shooting accuracy his top priority, followed by speed at the range and then making up lost time skiing.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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