The Dufour-Lapointe sisters Chloé, Maxime and Justine come from a family whose main pastime was sailing. But winters spent skiing in the Laurentians, north of the family home in Canada’s Montreal, meant the three sisters became top class skiers.
Medals for Chloé and Justine at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi caught the imagination of the world – especially given the way the three sisters (Maxime also competed) celebrated their family’s success.
In PyeongChang 2018, Justine enjoyed success again.
Just back from their travels, Close-up Culture caught up with the dynamic trio who are brimming with ideas for a life beyond the slopes.
We are now more than a month removed from PyeongChang 2018. How do you reflect on the competition and the experience as a whole?
Justine: I HAVE only been home for a few weeks now and it has really felt good. Right after PyeongChang, I had to stay on tour and travel to other competitions and the World Cup. So in the last month of the circuit I have been to Japan, Italy, Switzerland and I finished up in France.
When I came back it meant so much to see my family, grandmother and my parents – and show them my Olympic medal. It was so rewarding seeing their reaction and then go on a media tour and show my medal to everyone. To feel that proudness from everyone is a great feeling.
In PyeongChang, I really felt like I had more experience – way more experience than in Sochi for sure. The fact that I was also still with my sister Chloe really helped me. I feel like I knew what was going on, but it was a different circumstance – it was just so different all round.
I think I managed my competition day very well. I will not lie about it – I was really stressed out and scared. Everyone would have felt the same if they were in my position. It is a really scary position to know that tomorrow is going to be your race day. It induces so much emotion and stress.
But what is funny is that I made a promise to myself and Chloe the night before: ‘You know what, I do not want to be scared. I just want to live the day because it has been way too long that I have been working for it.’
It had been four years that I had trained myself only for that day. So I just promised myself to enjoy it – every second of it – and to make it count. I think that is what happened. I arrived on the day of the competition and I tried to just smile, have fun and really get through it with proudness and courage. To have the best smile on my face and stay focused every step of the way.
I mean it is easy to get overwhelmed or think too much, but what was going on in my head was just: ‘One step at a time’ and just think about the ‘now’. For example: ‘now I have to take the chairlift’ and: ‘now I have to breathe and take this time on the chairlift to relax.’
So yeah, it was pretty much like that. When I crossed the finish line I knew that I had done everything I could. I did the best run I could on that slope because it was so hard, difficult and tricky. I was really proud of my team, staff and myself and felt like: ‘you know what, I do not know what is next but I have done the best I could have.’
Before PyeongChang I heard Maxime speak beautifully about the values of the Olympics and its ability to bring the best out in people. Were there any athletes or performances that stood out or inspired you from this year’s games?
Maxime: LIKE Sochi, what stood out the most is the way that team Canada stuck together and cheered each other on. My sisters’ event was at the beginning of the Olympics so after we did a little media we just had plenty of time to enjoy the games.
Our goal was to watch as many events as we could so we could cheer on other athletes and this is what every athlete on team Canada did. They attended events and cheered on each other because they lived in a small building all together.
You get to meet incredible athletes from other sports that could only happen at the Olympics. Normally, you are in other areas of the world competing in your own sport.
The Olympics has this unique way of bringing people together. For me, this bringing together of Canada is a unique feeling and incredible. I made friends on the Canadian team that I will have for the rest of my life and I think this is always a beautiful moment.
My sisters and myself went to see the men’s bronze hockey game. We went to see Tessa [Virtue] and Scott [Moir] skate. We saw luge, the team relay winning bronze – all of those moments. There were other Olympians around us and we all went crazy whenever Canada won a medal.
We are so happy for these athletes because we have known their journey and the struggle they went through. To see them succeed is a true joy.
You had a lot of obstacles and hardships heading into PyeongChang. How important has your togetherness and family strength been during this time?
Chloé: HEADING to the Olympics and knowing that Mum was sick, I felt when we all heard in our family this news it was shocking.
But it was really important to stick together because we knew there was one big piece of the family who needed our support. But we needed each other to support us during the day. Every single one of us had different ways to react to the news about Mum and different ways to deal with it.
It was so important that we stick together and support each other. It was at different moments that someone was down or up, so I felt not alone in this situation and we were all in the same boat. We were all dealing with the same news, the same problem and so the family was the most important thing.
Sometimes, one of us was thinking that being alone was better but in the end you need your family around you when something happens like this. You need your friends, all your team around you. Sometimes you do not need a big support, but other times you need it.
It makes a huge difference to have the family around so we can count on each other.
Q: What is the dynamic like between the three of you and how has it evolved over the years?
Maxime: A LOT of people ask us whether there is competition or not between us but there is not. From an early age we learned that competition is only really regarding ourselves. We are in charge of our performance and it does not matter what the other one does.
However, our strength is to support and be there for each other when we need it – and actually push each other. That is one of the greater strengths of being sisters – we are very truthful with each other.
We are going to say the truth even if sometimes it hurts. I would rather hear it from my sisters and I think sometimes those hard conversations are not easy to have with other people and we have learned to use it as a strength to always move forward.
We have a genuine sister relationship where we get into fights sometimes, but we know that we are always going to figure it out and always going to move forward.
We also have this kind of business relationship as we are driven women and we want our brand as the Dufour-Lapointe sisters to live beyond sport. This is something we are still figuring out. I think again our strength of being able to say the truth and use each other’s different strengths is going to help us stand on top as it did with sport.
You have all been extremely successful and popular as athletes. Do you have any plans or ambitions for the future outside of competing?
Justine: YES. We recently launched our first Dufour-Lapointe item on our website – DufourLapointe.com. This is our own designed necklace.
We have been designing our logo for about two years which was really hard to do with three people who have different taste in lives. We managed to find one that is three triangles with different forms – so it represents each one of us.
All of those triangles have a meeting point in the centre which represents our unity, our strength together.
And for us, we just thought it was so beautiful and meaningful when we finally decided on this logo. We were just like: ‘It is so cute!’ – why not create something else than just a t-shirt? We decided to create this jewellery, this necklace, which for us is a first little baby that we created on our own. It is both stressful and exciting. We are really proud it is now out there – everyone can buy it.
It is a little piece of us that is affordable and you can find only online and on our website. It is pretty much a big plan for us. For me it has always been a dream to be a business woman. But to be a business woman with my sisters is really cool. We helped each other a lot with it. It is an exciting future for us.
Maxime: WE are very ambitious and driven women. We want to build a business and we now have a website running.
This is the first project but we want to build more. It is a great way to start with something we all love. We now have a logo that is kind of a prism with three triangles – it is a metaphor for the fact we are all a little different but combined together we are a beautiful mix and actually stronger.
It was a lot of work but we are happy with the final product and we are going to try and show it to the world. We are not just athletes – we are also passionate about fashion, nutrition, fitness and cooking. These are all areas that we want to explore and maybe television as well. We are brainstorming a lot of things at the moment and we are going to pursue a lot outside of being athletes.
We want to create a legacy as well with what we have done and our values because it is important to share all those things.
Every year we have a camp we do for little girls called Camp 3SDL. We ski with young girls from Quebec who do mogul skiing. I think the youngest we have had was eight years old and now up to 15 and 16 years old.
We now have up to 70 girls coming every year. We get sponsors to participate and it is all about having fun, but also being accessible. So that we can just have a chat on the chairlift and get to ask them: ‘how was your season?’; ‘what do you like most about skiing?’ and: ‘what is your greatest fear?’. Just share our experience of the season with them because there are – of course – amazing stories and moments but there are also struggles and you do not always get the chance to say that.
This is a time when we are authentic and we share what we have experienced with them as athletes. We hope that we can inspire them to reach their own goals and become amazing, empowered women.
Lastly, the Olympics and athletes like yourselves have the power to inspire a new generation. Do you have any words of wisdom to share, particularly for young women and girls?
Justine: For me, it is to dare to dream. Every girl can dream to do whatever they want. I have always been that girl not to be scared or afraid to chase my own dream and I think that is why it got me where I am right now.
I was courageous enough and fearless enough to just chase it and tell my dream to people around me as well. Being strong and independent is the most beautiful thing a woman can have and be.
Do not be afraid to be who you are. Fearless and independent.