They used to have to bribe the little one with chocolates: ski through the moguls and glades once more with your big sisters, and you’ll get a treat.
There were a lot of extra runs.
So many that Justine Dufour-Lapointe, then 4 or 5, ended up with a mouthful of cavities.
The extra visits to the dentist were surely worth it. The 18-year-old moguls specialist from Montreal leads the World Cup standing – she collected eight medals in 2012 – and is considered a gold-medal contender for the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
She’ll face stiff competition from reigning Olympic champion Hannah Kearney of the United States, and perhaps from older sister Chloé Dufour-Lapointe, 21, a world championship silver medalist in 2011 who finished a surprising fifth in her Olympic debut at the 2010 Vancouver Games.
And if all goes according to plan, the eldest Dufour-Lapointe on the national team, 23-year-old Maxime, will be along for the voyage as well.
All those 6 a.m. drives to the Laurentians, piled into the family Volkswagen like cord wood, should count for something for Quebec’s first family of freestyle skiing.
They’re plainly excited at the prospect of competing together – and against one another, this isn’t a team sport – and insist their bond constitutes a competitive edge.
“You can have close friendships with teammates, but you can also get sick of each other,” Justine said. “But even when we argue and fight, I’m sorry, but we will never …”
“… Be able to divorce ourselves …,” Chloé interjected.
“. . . From where we come from,” Justine concluded.
You would expect a trio of sisters who grew up together on the family boat in the summer, and on the slopes every winter, to finish each other’s sentences.
But proximity and togetherness are themes that run throughout the Canadian moguls team, which holds a couple of the country’s brightest medal hopes at next year’s Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
On the men’s side, 20-year-old Mikael Kingsbury of Deux-Montagnes, Que., is the heavy gold-medal favourite for 2014. He recently had an eye-popping string of 19 consecutive World Cup podium finishes – a record.
Kingsbury’s relationship with fellow national team members Marc-Antoine Gagnon and Alex Bilodeau – the men’s Olympic moguls defending champion from Vancouver – isn’t filial, but it feels that way.
“We’re essentially living together 12 months of the year, these guys are like my brothers,” Kingsbury said. “I actually think that’s a big reason for our success. Canada’s the best in the world at our sport, and I really believe it has to do with the fact we’re so close.”
Bilodeau is the grand old man of the national team at 25, but his form on the World Cup this season suggests he’s far from a spent force. When Kingsbury lost a ski at a dual event in Deer Valley, Utah, last week, Bilodeau seized the opportunity to win a gold medal.
This weekend, the Canadian moguls skiers will relocate en masse to Sochi for a World Cup competition that doubles as an Olympic test event.
“We’ve skied there before, but this is a chance to see the course and the conditions and to maybe take a few notes, it’s going to be cool,” Kingsbury said.
It’s also a chance to check out the accommodations, and to get familiar with the weather conditions – which Maxime Dufour-Lapointe said can vary wildly. (“It’s a little like Vancouver, it could rain or it could be a blizzard like the first time we went. … I’ve never skied powder like that before in my life.”)
As usual, they’ll do their intelligence gathering together.
Spend all the summers of your youth on a 30-foot sailboat with your siblings, and words like close and tightly-knit quickly become insufficient in describing the situation.
“Let’s just say your personal space gets compressed. A lot,” Maxime, who placed eighth in a dual event at a recent World Cup in Lake Placid, N.Y., said with a laugh.
To sit down with the sisters is to understand the space she refers to is essentially non-existent.
“If we can all room together [on the World Cup], we usually do,” Maxime said this week in a Montreal cafe.
“When we don’t see each other, we usually end up sulking about it,” Chloé added.
Good thing they’ll be seeing a lot of each other between now and February of 2014.