Sochi 2014: Meet the parents - how to raise Olympic champion

By Richard ConwayBBC Radio 5 live sports news correspondent
Chloe and Justin Dufour-Lapointe
Chloe and Justin Dufour-Lapointe

Raising a child to be an Olympian is no easy task.

Raising three of them, and then watching as they scale the podium at a Winter Olympics, is something of an entirely different order.

That, however, is exactly what Canadian parents Yves Lapointe and his wife Johane Dufour have done.

Behind each of the 294 gold, silver and bronze medals awarded at the Sochi Winter Olympics there are tales to be told.

Hardship, endeavour, bravery, courage and, significantly, sacrifice by parents and the people who have helped a particular athlete develop are common themes.

The outpouring of joy expressed in the emotional reunion between Great Britain's Jenny Jones and her mother and father following her bronze medal in the snowboard slopestyle reflects the product of years of shared passion and commitment.

But sacrifice is not a word Yves recognises after watching his daughters, Justine and Chloe Dufour-Lapointe, finish first and second in the women's moguls - only the third time sisters have won gold and silver in the same event at a Winter Games. His eldest daughter, Maxime, finished a commendable 10th.

"Sacrifice, I don't think, is the right word. Choice is much better," he told BBC Sport. "It's all about choices - what you want to do.

"It was a question of believing in a dream and believing in what the girls were telling us."

When it comes to raising Olympians, Yves and Johane could perhaps write the 'How to…' guide.

They made their first choice when their children were born, deciding they wanted to spend as much time as possible with their daughters.

"They are babies one day and then, look, they are at the Olympics the next!" said Johane, who, with three university degrees, gave up her career to be at home with her children.

When Chloe, the middle sister at 22, told them she wanted to compete at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, her parents made another choice. They set about helping make her dream become a reality.

"Without them we wouldn't be here today. It's they who have defined my life," said Chloe.

"When I was young, they surrounded us with love. When we were little girls they kept telling us we could do anything.

Chloe Dufour-Lapointe

"I remember that I was on Mont Gabriel [in Quebec, Canada], innocent, a little bit naive, and my dad said, 'do a 360'. I said, 'if my Dad says it, he believes in me; I'll do it because I don't want to lose, because I am a proud person and I just like to really go for it'."

However, it was eldest sister Maxime, 25, who was the first of the sisters to try moguls.

After joining a local ski club in Montreal she began serious training.

Chloe, three years younger than Maxime, was next to join. Then Justine, at 19 and now the Olympic champion, 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.

Family holidays spent sailing were put to one side - the boat was eventually sold to help fund and focus on the Olympic dream - as their parents undertook the two-and-a-half-hour drive every weekend from the family home in Montreal to Lake Placid, over the US border in New York State, for intensive training.

Chloe made it on to the Canada team for the Vancouver Games in 2010, finishing fifth and inspiring her younger sister in the process.

Justine said: "I saw my sisters in the World Cup and I watched Chloe in Vancouver. I decided I wanted to train hard. I have always been a competitive tiger - I take after my dad."

Four years on, Chloe was joined by both her sisters in Russia.

In a news conference in Sochi, sitting alongside her parents and siblings, she wept as she reflected on their shared achievement.

"I'm sorry, I'm overwhelmed," Chloe said. "This is the best moment in my life."

While Justine and Chloe have medals and memories to cherish, Maxime was stoic after missing out on a medal.

"I'm so proud of my sisters," she said. "But for me, there's a little bit of mixed emotion."

The inner strength her parents instilled in Maxime is perhaps needed more now in defeat than it ever would be in victory.

Having watched her sisters succeed and speak at length to the world's media, the photographers who had gathered to capture the news conference called the family together to pose as a unit.

Then the shout went up from the floor for "just the medallists, just the medallists!".

Yves and his wife Johane Lapointe
Yves Lapointe and his wife Johane Dufour have been put in the limelight since their daughters' successes in Sochi

Maxime, with grace and poise, took a step to the side and watched as her sisters, arms around one another, had their picture taken.

And all on her 25th birthday, too.

In raising Olympians, Yves and Johane have clearly taught their girls how to handle the extremes of emotion that sport brings.

There were other challenges in getting the sisters to this highest of stages, though.

It would be unnatural for siblings not to fall out on occasion or have cross words, and the Dufour-Lapointes are no different.

Channelling that sibling rivalry - and ensuring they treat each child equally - proved such a challenge that their parents brought in professional help.

"Yes, they have rivalry and are competitive. This was a reality from early on," said Yves.

"At times, one sister would be happy for her high result, but we would try not to make them feel better than the others.

"We consulted a psychologist. We wanted to treat all girls equally; they are, first and foremost, sisters. Sometimes they fall out, but now they are mature enough to handle themselves.

"I have always told them they are like a triangle. All three angles have to be equal to be a stable triangle."

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The sisters have inherited an iron will from their parents. Johane rolled her eyes when explaining that, despite being a man of maturing years, Yves still plays in goal for his local amateur ice hockey team, getting up each day at 5.30am to train.

Yet that spirit has taken hold of their daughters, taking them to the pinnacle of their sport and shaping the lives of the people who brought them into the world.

"I'm an engineer so I knew one way of life. But my girls have showed us another. We always try to keep the family values intact - that's what has taken us to the podium."

It has come at a financial cost but Johane sees it simply as yet another choice they have made, not a sacrifice.

"When we're old, and we don't have any more money, we will be happy to sit in a rocking chair in a two-and-half-room apartment. But right now, those babies, these little girls, these little teenagers, need us."

This part of the Olympic journey is now complete for the family and, unusually in an Olympic Games in which competitors nearly always celebrate or commiserate alone, they leave Russia with a collective prize.

"I'm so proud of all my three daughters. Today is the climax of a long road that we travelled together," said Yves.

"The medals are a great prize to all of us."