Arthur Bauchet is facing an identity dilemma.
As much as he enjoys being called the ‘King Arthur’ of the ski world, the Paralympic medallist and five-time world champion would readily swap a sword for a Batmobile to be more like his favourite fiction hero.
“I’m really honoured to have this nickname because King Arthur is a mythological legend. But my favourite character is Batman,” Bauchet confessed.
The French Para alpine skier received his medieval moniker following a breakout performance at the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games where he won four silver medals.
During the next two seasons, the feisty 19-year-old proved that his success in PyeongChang was not a fluke, winning back-to-back overall Crystal Globes in the men’s standing class at the World Para Alpine Skiing World Cup.
However, despite his now kingly rank, Bauchet admits he still feels more like the Dark Knight of the circuit with plenty left to prove.
Rattle the cages
Bauchet claimed his second overall title in the 2019-20 season. The season was cut short by the breakout of the COVID-19 pandemic, but even with fewer races, the French skier managed to tally up an impressive record of 13 medals, including 11 gold.
“Each Globe is different. Each Globe, each medal has its own story,” Bauchet said. “It is a long and very difficult road to the top of the class and we know that it is a very easy place to lose. So I am really happy to win it again this year and I will do everything to have the same results next season.”
In addition to his overall Crystal Globe, Bauchet topped the rankings in giant slalom and downhill this season.
Known more as a technical specialist, Bauchet is particularly proud of his results in the speed races. Not only did he get his career’s first downhill victory at a World Cup in Juzhno-Sakhalinsk, Russia, but also picked up the Crystal Globe in the discipline.
“The speed disciplines, and the DH in particular, were a real challenge because I have never done DH before joining the national team,” he said. “It’s a long race and with my legs, it is quite difficult as well. But this year we really focused on the speed events and this work has paid off so I’m really happy about that. Winning my first race and the Globe in DH in the same year was truly incredible.”
Due to his condition, every season feels different for Bauchet. The athlete has hereditary spastic paraplegia, which affects his spinal cord, causes tremors in his legs, and makes him tired.
“My illness is progressive so we have to adapt a little bit more each season. We test some strengthening exercises to find a good way to train. For example, I cannot run or do jumps and I can walk only short distances, so I do a lot of exercise on the bike,” Bauchet said.
“I also do a lot of indoor strength training and, of course, a lot of skiing too. We have to adapt the training. I even do shorter training than the team because my legs get tired really fast. But now as of two years, we managed to find a way to train that suits me well.”
With tough rivals in the highly competitive men’s standing class - among which Bauchet lists Austria’s Markus Salcher, Canada’s Alexis Guimond, Russia’s Aleksei Bugaev, USA’s Thomas Walsh, and Switzerland’s dynamic trio of Theo Gmur, Thomas Pfyl and Robin Cuche - the Frenchman knows that he does not have the luxury of rest.
“I had a lot of rivals this season. They all got stronger and it’s really great to have this kind of competition,” Bauchet said. “I will work hard this summer to try and stay at the top, but I have no doubt that my opponents will do the same and that there will be a beautiful competition again next year.”
For the last 10 years, French Para alpine skiing has been synonymous with the name Bochet in reference to the sensational female standing skier, Marie Bochet, who has been virtually unbeatable since the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games.
Now there is another name that springs to mind - Bochet and Bauchet. The two are so similar in sound that the athletes often get mistaken for siblings.
“When the two of us are together and someone asks us our names, they really think that we are from the same family,” Bauchet said. “It is really funny that two people on the same team have the same last name without any family ties.”
The two French skiers share more in common than just the sound of their names. They both soared to the top at a young age and are dominant leaders in their respective classes - with the exception that Bauchet, who is seven years younger, is a few races behind Bochet in his accolades.
The challenges that they face are also similar, so eight-time Paralympic champion Bochet was the perfect person to give her teammate advice.
“I really like the place I am in, but as Marie and the staff said, the most difficult thing is not reaching this place, but keeping it,” Bauchet said. “I feel good and I take each season as a new start. I forget my place from last year and I have to do all the work again to be at the top level.”
After all, as Bauchet’s favourite superhero would agree, “It’s not who you are underneath, but what you do that defines you.”