SOCHI - The Canadian sister act has hit Russia with style on the eve of the opening ceremony for the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Not one, not two but all three of the talented Dufour-Lapointe sisters of Quebec qualified for Saturday’s final of the women’s moguls event with strong runs in Thursday’s preliminary round.
Chloe Dufour-Lapointe led the way by finishing second to American Hannah Kearney, who captured gold in Vancouver five years ago, while Justine was third and Maxime eighth.
It was an impressive show all around for the women, who will be joined by another Canadian, Audrey Robichaud, who qualified ninth and also advanced directly to the final.
The Montreal-raised sisters will become just the fifth set of three or more siblings to compete in the same event at a Winter Games.
The family act is clearly focussed on the task at hand as they each declined to speak with the Canadian media following the qualifying run at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park.
But if they are getting hot at the right time, they’re making a strong pitch for one of the top feel-good stories early in these Games, which kick off with Friday’s opening ceremonies.
“All four are capable (of winning a medal),” Canadian coach Marc-Andre Moreau said of the group that will be looking to vault Canada off to a strong start on the first official day of Games competition.
“If they do what they have to do then they all have the potential to get on the podium.”
Chasing down Kearney won’t be done easily as she was the runaway leader of qualifying. But the fact that the Dufour-Lapointes were so competitive adds another layer to what has been a dream come true for the skiing siblings.
“It was really emotional, we were all really stoked,” Justine Dufour-Lapointe said earlier this week of the reaction when all three were named to the team. “When we realized we were all going together to the Games, we were just proud and excited.
“But now that we’re here, we’ve calmed down and I think we’re just focussing on each of our races. We came here together, but we will ski for ourselves.”
And they’ve been doing it rather well, too. While Kearney has claimed three of the six World Cup moguls events contested so far, the others have gone to the sisters. Justine Dufour-Lapointe has won two while Chloe has one victory.
Chloe, the middle sister at age 22, will be looking to improve on her fifth-place finish at the Vancouver Games where she competed as an 18-year-old. She has steadily improved her standing on the World Cup and captured gold in the dual moguls event at the 2013 world championship.
"It was my first gold at the international level and it proved to me that I was able to be on the top,” Chloe said. “I guess I've kept the tempo this year and I trained really hard this summer to be ready for Sochi."
The sister with the biggest upside, though, may be 19-year-old Justine who won bronze at the 2013 world championship and is currently ranked second in the world. She showed Thursday that she should be in the thick of things for the medal portion of the competition.
And then there’s Maxime, 24, the oldest sister and the one who was least likely to make it to the Games.
“Honestly, I never had a doubt,” Maxime said when she was named to the Canadian team last month. “I planned the entire season – travel, training, racing. I knew exactly what to expect and gave it my all.”
While expecting a podium sweep would be asking for the moon, all three have been in the medals at least once this season and at one point were ranked second (Justine), third (Chloe) and fifth (Maxime) in the World Cup rankings.
Whatever happens Saturday, it’s been quite the ride from the days learning the sport in the Laurentians to the biggest stage in their sport. And quite a story, too.