Running on two hours of sleep and fielding calls from the Prime Minister and media outlets around the world, Canada’s new family of skiing all-stars still cannot believe all that has happened.
“I’m starting to process that I am the Olympic champion at 19 years old,” Justine Dufour-Lapointe told a packed press conference in Sochi on Sunday, about 12 hours after winning the gold medal in moguls. “Kind of freaking me out. It’s really cool and I think I will embrace that moment forever.”
Sitting next to her was her sister Chloé, the silver medalist, who also seemed unable to comprehend all that had happened on the slopes of the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park. “This is the best moment of my life.”
Just down the table, eldest sister Maxime was slightly more philosophical. “My dream before Sochi was to come here with my sisters, and this Olympic dream has come true,” she said. “We are here at the Olympics and I’m now part of an Olympic family. I am an Olympian.”
The scene late on Saturday night was still fresh in everyone’s mind: Justine racing down her final run, cool, confident and so poised she easily knocked off the defending Olympic champion, Hannah Kearney of the United States. Chloé, 22, had skied just ahead of her, nailing down second and pushing Ms. Kearney to the bronze. Their parents, Yves and Johane, jumping for joy so much Ms. Dufour’s glasses fogged up in the cold night air. “They are so cute,” Mr. Lapointe screamed out.
And then the tears. First Maxime, 25, cried as she jumped into the arms of her mother. Then the parents cried, then Justine shed tears as she held Chloé’s hand before stepping onto the podium, then Chloé choked up as she talked later about learning the ropes of skiing from Maxime.
It continued on Sunday, as the family gathered one more time to talk about their remarkable accomplishment and how it all came about from their home in Pointe-aux-Trembles on the eastern tip of Montreal island. More tears and more hugs.
“There was no sacrifice,” Mr. Lapointe, an engineer, said when asked what he and his wife had given up to help their children succeed. “It’s all about choices about what you want to do. … We were looking forward and we were a little bit to the left wing, wanting to do [things] a bit different than other people and we managed through and we took this great decision and that’s what brought us here.”
Added his wife, who has three university degrees and stayed home to raise the girls: “That was our choice, to be close to them and to watch every single moment when they had success or pain.”
Some of those decisions are now part of family lore. Like the summer weekends spent plying Lake Champlain on a sailing boat called “The Excessive” and then turning to skiing to give the children something to do during the long Canadian winters.
In an interview with The Globe and Mail last winter, Ms. Dufour described cramming her sleepy kids and their gear into the family Volkswagen on early weekend mornings to drive to the Laurentian mountains. As the girls’ interest in skiing grew, they decided to buy a cottage in Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, Que., about an hour north of Montreal. And it was at nearby Mont-Gabriel that the sisters started skiing competitively.
Although Maxime, a prospective medical student, and Chloé took to the sport immediately, Justine was a slower convert. Her mother described having to bribe her youngest with chocolate to keep skiing and following her sisters. Before long, Maxime and Chloé drew the attention of the junior provincial freestyle team – their prospects quickly became solid enough to incite their parents to dip into their family savings to supplement their coaching. Then Justine topped both, emerging as a force on the skiing circuit and getting closer to Ms. Kearney every year.
Skiing was never considered an excuse not to do school work; the private school in Anjou, a community in east-end Montreal, where Justine and Chloé studied, has put a message of congratulations on its website for what have surely become its two most famous alumni.
On Sunday, Justine talked about what drives her, an intensity that belies her outward cheerfulness. “I had this fighter inside of me,” she said, describing what she was thinking just before her final run. “And I thought, ‘You’re a fighter, you’re a tiger.… This is my moment. This is my day. And I will own that moment for myself and I will ski for myself.’ This is what I said going down.”
It was Maxime who tried to put the sisters into some kind of perspective. Asked to describe everyone, she said Justine is the clown, Chloé the emotional, if at times, clumsy one who fell off the boat once, and she is the cerebral problem-solver.
“So in the end, because we all have different strengths and weaknesses, when we’re combined that’s pretty much as good as it gets,” she added.
There is now talk of a line of clothing and of branding “3SDL”as they are known. But before all that there was one more task on Sunday, collecting their medals at a ceremony in Olympic Park.
When her name was announced, Justine leaped onto the gold-medal position at the the centre of the podium. She smiled at Chloé, who stood next to her in the silver-medal spot. After the medals were hung around their necks, Justine cried and Chloé worked to hold back tears, sneaking glances at her sister. Maxime and their parents stood nearby, clapping wildly.
“To be there with my sister, and my big sister here, is just amazing,” Justine said after the ceremony. “This is the best moment of my life, to have this beautiful medal and to hear the anthem.”
Earlier it was Ms. Dufour who summed everything up best. “Look at how beautiful they are, they are wonderful girls,” she said. “They have such a wonderful life ahead of them.”
Five facts on three sisters
Canada’s new sisterly skiing sensation comprises three women who are three years apart. The eldest Dufour-Lapointe sister, 25-year-old Maxime, got things rolling on the slopes when she was 12. A friend was skiing freestyle, and when she saw him compete, she decided she could do the same. Her younger sisters followed – Chloé, now 22, and Justine, aged 19.
Although Maxime led the way, she was the only one who failed to make the finals in Sochi.
2Johane Dufour, the girls’ mother, is credited with supporting her daughters and keeping sibling rivalries in check. Their father, Yves Lapointe, gave them a taste for risk-taking. The engineer used to throw his children off the family sailboat when they were small (in their life jackets). “Instead of crying, we’d laugh,’” Chloé told Radio-Canada in 2010. “He didn’t raise us like guys, but rougher than your average girl, I think. But we always liked it. I’m happy my father did that when we were young. It made us into girls who were stronger and less fearful.”
3Sailing was the family’s first love. It also kept everyone close. The family spent two months on a sailboat along the U.S. east coast when the girls were young. Once the parents saw their daughters’ potential, they made sacrifices by selling their boat.
4Two of the three girls admit to pre-competition superstitions, according to the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association website. Justine always wears a specific pair of underwear for races; Maxime almost always puts on her left ski first.
5Chloé and Justine are the third sister duo to take gold and silver at the same event in the Winter Olympics; they join Doris and Angelika Neuner of Austria in 1992 and Christine and Marielle Goitschel of France in 1964.
- Ingrid Peritz