Sister Act

Savouring the sweet slopes of success with the Dufour-Lapointe trio

By Jason Santerre

It’s a lovely February day in Sochi. The first Olympic medal event for freestyle skiing is underway. Skiers are judged not only on their time and handling of myriad moguls but how they tackle two mandatory jumps as well. Seven judges award a max of 30 points for each run.

Out of the final 12, Montreal’s Maxime Dufour-Lapointe is the first of three sisters to hit the slope. She completes a solid run but misses out on a spot in the final six skiers. The six include Maxime’s sister Justine, just a month shy of her 20th birthday. She hits the snow with aggressive, fast turns, her knees glued all the while as she navigates moguls and lands both jumps with ease.

Her score puts her in gold-medal position with two skiers to go, including middle sister, Chloé, whose clean run with good balance puts her in silver position but the nail biting begins in earnest with Hanna Kearney, the defending champ, skiing last. Gasps escape from the crowd of spectators as Kearney wobbles on her first jump, barely recovering in time to put together a good run but one that clearly won’t be enough to edge Justine Dufour-Lapointe.

The Canadian fans in the crowd go wild as it becomes clear there is an upset in the making. And history is made since two sisters will stand on the podium — just the third time sisters win gold and silver in the same Winter Olympic event.

Olympic records notwithstanding, it was easy for an entire country to fall for the three ebullient, bilingual, beauties. They represented Canada the way we wanted to be represented with the whole world watching. The tight-knit trio with fresh-faced enthusiasm lit up our television screens and we loved every second.

The sisters remain fixtures in the news what with their work in the community, dabblings in fashion, and an appearance on CBC’s Dragon's Den, not to mention schmoozing with the nation’s movers and shakers. Does everyone want a piece of the Olympic heroines? Of course.

Chloé, the silver medalist and middle sister at 23, says 2014 was definitely a year she'll never forget. "We rode a big wave. Every day reminded us how much our lives changed after Sochi.”

Maxime, the older sister at 26, says the biggest change and ostensibly the biggest challenge is dealing with media demands. "Finding time for school, to rest, to look for sponsorship, or just to train is something the three of us weren’t prepared for."

Their newfound celebrity might be tough at times, but the sisters take comfort in leaning on one another. "My older sisters are so important to me," says Justine. "They would pick me up from school to go and train together, and the days I complained or didn’t feel like it they would push me, keep me focused. I’m so grateful for not only great sisters but great partners."

And like all siblings, each one has a role to play, it's just more pronounced when you live a competitive lifestyle, one that puts you in the public eye and pits you against one another. "We all play a role for sure," says Maxime. “In the beginning of our athletic careers, I was the protective older sister."

Justine agrees, with a nod to parents, Johane Dufour and Yves Lapointe. "They wanted us to compete, for sure, but they always said to have fun first. When it’s not fun anymore, move on. And although my mom is our agent, she was never one of those pushy mothers. She said there should never be competition between the three of us, just a support system."

Family togetherness is great, but for Chloé, being successful on the slopes — a place where the sisters spend more than half their life training — is sweet, indeed. "Winning a medal is so great, of course, but being an inspiration to young girls is huge, too," she says.

"Young girls look up to us and that’s amazing but it’s also a lot of pressure," adds Justine. " Girls and their mothers come up to us all the time and say how we inspired them or impacted their life. If they are inspired to try a sport, that’s the most rewarding thing because sports helped me so much. It increases fitness level, of course, but it’s also about confidence, self-esteem and everything that comes with it. The Olympics give you so much more than just a medal."

Summer 2015, Vol 7 N°3

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