Justine Dufour-Lapointe was stunned. She had just knocked off the best moguls skier in the world to win the Olympic gold medal.
On a crystal clear Saturday night in the craggy mountains above Sochi, Russia, the Canadian athlete knew exactly where to turn – to her sister, Chloe, who took the silver. Justine grabbed Chloe’s hand and they stepped onto the podium together for the medal ceremony.
“Holding Chloe’s hand meant that I wasn’t alone,” Justine, 19, said. “I was in shock. I saw Chloe and I felt calm. Holding her hand, I knew it would feel more like home.”
Not far away from the winners, their oldest sister, Maxime, was crying. She finished 12th on the eve of her 25th birthday.
“The path we walked, we did this side-by-side,” she said.
When they were younger, Justine and Chloe saw Maxime skiing moguls in the resorts near Montreal and thought it looked cool. Thus, the Dufour-Lapointe freestyle dynasty was born.
Justine and Chloe, 22, joined French skiers Marieele and Christine Goitschel and Austrian lugers Doris and Angelika Neuner on the short list of sisters to win Olympic gold and silver in the same event.
“I knew they were looking for this result and it’s just amazing,” Maxime said. “I’m just lucky I’m living in the same house because I can learn from the two best in the world.”
The 1-2 finish kept American Hannah Kearney, the top-ranked and most consistent skier in the world over the past four years, from becoming the first back-to-back winner of an Olympic freestyle event.
Kearney, the 27-year-old from Hanover, N.H., spent all night trying, unsuccessfully, to find her footing on a tricky bump that came directly after the first jump. She was inconsolable after placing third.
“No one in life wants their best part of their career to be behind them,” she said. “And unfortunately, that’s what it feels like right now.”
“I’ll have to treat this bronze medal as a reward for fighting,” she added. “Right now, I’d like very much to ski again. But I’ll try my very best to let it go. It’ll help my happiness level.”
No help needed in the Dufour-Lapointe family – or anywhere in Canada, it seems. Shortly after their victories, they received a phone call from Prime Minister Stephen Harper that they couldn’t accept. They were in the middle of the winner’s news conference.
“A dream. A long time, we’ve dreamed this,” said their father, Yves. “It doesn’t get any better than this.”