KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – 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, one of the most memorable evenings in Canada’s Olympic history, she knew exactly where to turn. Her sister, Chloe, took the silver. So, Justine grabbed Chloe’s hand and they stepped onto the podium together for the flower ceremony.
“Holding Chloe’s hand meant that I wasn’t alone,” Justine 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, 19, 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.
“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.”
Over the past year or so, second-ranked Justine Dufour-Lapointe has proven herself as one of the few skiers who could challenge Kearney, a once-in-a-lifetime talent who strung together a record 16 straight wins over a span from 2011-12.
Kearney went last, with a chance to become the first skier to go back-to-back in the 22-year history of Olympic freestyle. But it was her landing after the first jump, one she had trouble with in practice, then during two earlier runs, as well, that tripped her up. Her left ski went flailing up and she struggled to keep her balance.
Kearney’s final jump, which includes a grab of her ski – the most difficult trick on the slope this night – wasn’t enough to make up for the earlier problems.