Like hundreds of thousands other tense Canadians, I sat transfixed in front of ye olde TV set on Saturday, willing a not-quite-good-enough run by the American mogul superstar, Hannah Kearney. Not that I wished any ill on Kearney, but I had watched in the cold driving rain at soggy Cypress Mountain four years ago, when Kearney had snatched the gold medal from favoured Canadian and defending Olympic champion, Jennifer Heil. So, what the heck, turnabout was fair play.
Besides, those captivating Quebecois sisters, Justine and Chloe Dufour-Lapointe had already finished their bouncy runs and stood first and second, awaiting only Kearney’s final dash down the steep, mogul-strewn incline. Dared we perchance to dream of gold and silver? By now, all Canada knows the result. Kearney buckled under the pressure, her form just a little bit off. The Winter Olympics had it’s fairy tale, and Canada had a wonderful, good news story for the ages. I would wager even those hardy anti-Olympians out there had to feel a little bit of happy in the night.
Imagine being 19, standing on the Olympic podium, with your sister beside you. In a touching moment at the informal, track-site ceremony, the two sisters briefly held hands. Later, they hugged and gave each other big kisses on the cheek. None of it was forced or staged. It was all spontaneous. These are sisters beyond friendly. They love each other. Said Justine: “This may be unique for the Olympics, but for us, it’s normal.”
And when ‘O Canada’ played during the official medal ceremony, tears rolled down the Olympic champion’s cheeks. See if you can manage to watch this, without tearing up, too. I couldn’t.
As if all this were not compelling enough, there is yet more to this story. A third Dufour-Lapointe sister also competes in moguls. Against all odds, Maxime, though not as skilled as her younger sisters, still managed to claw her way onto Canada’s Olympic team, through the preliminaries and into the final 12. How appropriate to have an Olympic retelling of The Three Sisters in Chekhov’s native land.
And, lest we forget the parents, Yves and Johane. A salt of the earth couple who deflected all talk about making sacrifices on behalf of their daughters. We just gave them the space to develop. They are the ones who deserve the praise, not us, said mom. “They showed us the way,” added dad.
In 2010, the New Yorker sent one of its writers to Vancouver to report on the Winter Olympics. Long before there were any headlines, he was entranced by Dufour-Lapointe sisters Maxime and Chloe, who finished fifth in her first Olympics at the age of 18. Justine, then 15, was merely in the background, with braces on her teeth and a Canadian flag painted on her cheeks. The writer’s prescient story contained these immortal words from the sisters’ aerials coach, Luc Bellhumeur: “Sochi will be a Dufour-Lapointe Olympics.” Little did he know.
With its myriad angles, starring sisters who seem to charm every time they open their mouth, this is one of those stories where words are mostly inadequate to what actually took place. About a hundred times better than all the TV-reality shows combined. So I’ll sign off here, leaving you with this very nice summation of an unforgettable Saturday from the slopes above Sochi by Postmedia’s Vicki Hall.
Plus, the ever-elegant Bruce Arthur:
And almost best of all, no one asked them about Justin Bieber…