SAUT À SKI – Former ski jumping competitor Gérard Colin has become coach of the French team. Portrait of a pure sugar Vosgien who now lives in the Jurassic Grandvaux.
Gérard Colin, Jurassien des Vosges
“I was born in Remiremont, but I say I’m from La Bresse.” No matter if he didn’t see the light of day in the Moselotte Valley, Gérard Colin is a Vosgien cut from white fir. And for good reason, the little boy grew up in a book with pages that we already seem well yellowed. When he was only six years old, his parents moved out. His father, who got tired in the forest, undertook a courageous conversion into the spinning mills. “He went on an internship in Germany and came back foreman in charge of the turbines. My mother was weaving. I was going to see her at the workshop.”
He still remembers the noisy and repetitive slamming of old trades. “In the sixties, life was still rough,” continues the coach at the French Ski Federation. The Second World War is not far away. In the fall of 1944, the Bresse paid a heavy price. The Germans, determined to extinguish the hotbed of resistance that developed there, ordered the deportation and destruction of the small town. Five hundred buildings are totally destroyed, including isolated farms, systematically blown up. The population was forced to leave, under a storm of snow and shells, towards Plainfaing, hamlet of Cornimont, by the Lake of Ravens and the Pass of the Virgin.
Gérard Colin remembers seeing the barracks that were later erected to house all these families. “My brother and I found guns and ammunition in the woods. One day, we even came across a rocket,” he marvels today.
This did not prevent the carelessness of childhood. “In the Vosges, there were ski homes in every village that worked with the school. So we were cross-country skiing,” says the man who will be crowned French ski jumping champion ten times.
His first springboards, he erects them himself with his friends, a shovel in his hand. A small bump is enough to amuse the troupe that plays to scare themselves. Pascal Remy “Boulette”, “a great”, observes these kids and is surprised by the prowess of his neighbor: “He came up to me and said: “You saw how you jump. Wouldn’t you like to try to compete?” That’s how I landed at the club that Gervais Poirot was looking after [the Poirot sibling, also with Marcel and Gilbert, is well known to the Bressauds,]. He was the one who took me first on the little springboard of La Bresse. My heart was coming out of my chest because he was pounding so hard.”
Painter in building… then lined up at the 1984 Games
In 1974, Gérard Colin donned his first sweater with the tricolour crest. He is only 16 years old. In 1980, even though he worked as a building painter, and then in 1984, he participated in the Olympic Games: “In the Americas”, as my mother said, I was hungry. I was young, I didn’t understand what was going on. In Sarajevo, four years later, I was aware of my worth. I wanted to go.” Unlike 1988: “I was “selectable” for Calgary, but I knew I wasn’t going to do better.”
A contract with Customs allows him to approach his conversion with serenity. He becomes a coach. On three occasions, he was called upon to take charge of an elite French team in arre between. He settled in the Jura (he was in charge of the Tuffes stadium in Premanon) and travelled europe, even the world, of the great caravan of “swallows.” Far from his native Vosges. “I’ve been nostalgic since I left. Today I want to go back,” he says.
For him, contrary to what is said, “the Vosges and the Jura are not the same. Nature is different.” It’s already a matter of geology. The first rest on granite, the second on limestone. It’s also a story of ears: “At home, I hear constantly the sound of streams popping out everywhere on the surface.”
As soon as he returns home, he finds his old training courses, on the side of the Chaume de Champis or the springboard of Entre Les Gouttes. The melancholy is near. But the children he had with Marie-Pierre Guilbaud are Jurassic, although the civil status gave birth to them in the heart of the maternal Central Massif. In this family that lives only for sport, Clément became a biathlete and Lucie joined the group of hopefuls of the French team. This winter, they won’t see much of their father. With Robert Treitinger, he will do everything to ensure that Vincent Descombes-Sevoie and Ronan Lamy-Chappuis fly as far as possible.