SOCHI, Russia — It was Maxime Dufour-Lapointe’s 25th birthday on Sunday and she spent it the way she had always dreamed of — sharing the stage with her two little sisters at the Sochi Olympics.
Their parents, Yves Lapointe and Johane Dufour, were there, too, ushered on to the rostrum like celebrities to answer questions from the world’s sporting media about their family’s amazing success.
The previous night, the Dufour-Lapointe family achieved a rare Olympic feat when Justine won the gold medal in the women’s moguls and Chloe took the silver.
But there was no medal for Maxime, the oldest of the three Canadian sisters. She made the final as well but finished 12th in what was a bittersweet moment.
“I’m so proud of my sisters,” she said. “But for me, there’s a little bit of mixed emotion.
“Not everything went smoothly for me. I didn’t have the best run.”
Maxime might have seemed like the odd one out, but not to her tight-knit family.
“I’m so proud of all my three daughters,” said her father, Yves. “Today is the climax of a long road that we traveled together. The medals are a great prize to all of us.”
As the oldest, Maxime paved the way for her younger siblings to take up skiing. The family’s first love was sailing but the slopes soon became their favourite playground as they looked for something else to do during the long Canadian winters.
Captivated by moguls, Maxime joined a ski club and began training seriously for the event, where competitors ski down a steep hill packed with bumps and jumps. Chloe, three years younger than Maxime, was next to join. Then Justine, who is three years younger than Chloe, signed up.
“When you’re the youngest, you just want to follow your older sisters, because you think they’re so cool and so beautiful, so I did,” said Justine, now 19.
Chloe, 22, made the Canadian team for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, finishing fifth. The following year she came second at the world championships and in 2013 she won the world title.
“I think we should thank our parents, they are our most loyal fans and we would not be here without them,” she said.
“When I was young, they surrounded us with love. When we were little girls they kept telling us we could do anything.
“We were bound to end up here. … We knew our parents were doing everything in their power to support us and we just couldn’t let them down.”
Like any doting mother, Johane said she only wanted her kids to have fun while instilling them with strong family values.
“We always tried to treat them equally,” she said.
“We told them that skiing will come and go but you will always be sisters.
“They are a triangle and all the angles have to be equal for the triangle to stay strong.”
Inevitably though, conflicts arose. With three elite athletes in the family, it was impossible for the Dufour-Lapointe clan to avoid some sibling rivalry.
The parents sought the advice of a sports psychologist, but not just for their children. They wanted help as well.
“As a skiing family, competition and rivalry has been with us from early on,” Johane said.
“We didn’t aim for high results at the beginning. We tried to keep our lady-dominated family disciplined.
“Each daughter knows she is responsible for her own results. We would tell them, ‘Don’t look at your sisters, just look at yourself.’”
It was a ploy that all three girls agreed to and adopted although after missing out on a medal, Maxine said she may revise that policy.
“My dream before Sochi was to come here with my sisters, and this Olympic dream has come true,” she said.
“Now my dream is to win a medal and my sister is the Olympic champion, so better to learn from her. It’s been a good lesson for me.”