07:00, 20 June 2022
It is the candidacy of a woman new to the federal mysteries, carried by a man who has maneuvered his life there. Opposite Nathalie Péchalat, who aspires to a second term at the head of the French Federation of Ice Sports (FFSG) on Saturday, Gwenaëlle Noury, founder in 2017 of the Lorient club, of which she is president. Except that it is mainly his shadow that the environment looks at. That’s where the features of Didier Gailhaguet come to the fore, twenty years of reign between 1998 and February 2020, the date he was pushed to the exit following the cases of sexual assault in skating. In recent weeks it has been he who has plowed the ground for Gwenaëlle Noury with the 162 club presidents called up.
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“When he came to meet me at the end of April, he told me that he had already seen 115”, says Olivier Tomat, from the American Orléans, who discovered the character there, often depicted as all-powerful, even Machiavellian. impressions? “I had an unsympathetic view of it. I saw a pleasant politician, with a good argument. He didn’t drag me along with his theories, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he dragged along a lot of small clubs. Obviously we feel he is there to be prime minister. † Another president, in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine League, says she observed at home “a real desire for revenge”† without introducing you “that this lady” [Noury] can be manipulated.” “But maybe I’m naive”, she immediately adds. Funny detail, the first page of the challenger’s program uses the same images as Gailhaguet’s for his last campaign, in 2018.
A river and savage letter
The former boss of the FFSG remains on a symbolic victory. In January, he ordered the state to pay him €5,000 for non-pecuniary damages, the Paris Administrative Court said “decisive pressure” Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu to force him to resign. He would therefore be determined to double down on the ballot box by proxy. But he denies it and minimizes: “I have nothing to say about the elections, I have left federal life. I was planning to stop after the Montpellier Worlds [en mars]† But the worst sports minister of the Fifth Republic decided otherwise, and it was hard to swallow. When I won the court, many people asked me to come back. But I’m not a candidate for anything. †
The new statutes of the FFSG, passed in October 2020 with a hard fight, limiting the president’s mandates to three, effectively forbid a return to the FFSG. But what about an influential position, chief executive or general secretary, under a Noury presidency? “It is absolutely excluded”he assures.
Make no mistake. At 68 years old, Gailhaguet still knows how to bite the calves. On June 6, he split a river and a savage letter to the club presidents, which bounced off an email from Nathalie Péchalat addressed to the same person three days earlier, in which she pointed out “past mistakes”† Fragments of this “Reply to Madam President that the whole world is jealous of us” (this is the title): “Madame, you have the destructive sense but the soft action” […]† Faced with the organizational, economic and sporting disaster you are leaving and associated with your arrival, look closely at the weak link. […] Yes, without any pretensions, the federation worked much better in my day! […] No one has seen you on the field for the past two years. You are in fact only available, like Narcissus, to try to boost your image on social networks and television sets. […] †
Entering the debate with such force, Gailhaguet takes the risk of relegating Gwenaëlle Noury to the background, which already starts with a lack of fame – not even her opponent knew her. As her profile resonates with her fellow club presidents, many of whom have expressed a sense of desolation at the heart of the pandemic, this teacher is walking around with a funny label for her entry onto the scene. “She’s the former president’s Trojan horse, paste Nathalie Pechalat, I even feel sorry for her. This election is primarily seen as a duel Péchalat against Gailhaguet. And the danger is precisely to see it come back and remind us of the excesses we have known, between individual promises, problems of corruption and sexual violence. Many private partners told me that in this case they would commit suicide. †
Gailhaguet prefers to stay off screen, refusing the role the environment sees him playing: “I heard about this doll story, it has nothing to do with this. Gwen Noury felt the urge to introduce herself long before reaching out to me. She’s a big girl, she can defend herself. † In any case, she did not respond to our requests.