Canada's freestyle skiers battled more than just the course

Marquis, Dufour-Lapointe, Howell had to put aside physical or emotional struggles leading up to Games

Canada's freestyle skiers battled more than just the course
Clockwise from bottom left, Justine Dufour-Lapointe, Philippe Marquis, and Dara Howell (pictured with her father) have all overcome adversity on their journey to the Games. © Kevin Light/CBC Sports/Associated Press
By Chicco Nacion

Ruptured knee ligaments, personal and mental health issues — the Games were more about overcoming adversity than hardware for some of Canada's freestyle skiers.

Just a month before the Games, Philippe Marquis tore his anterior cruciate ligament during a training run for a World Cup event. Just like that, it looked four years of hard work went down the drain.

But he refused to give up and the 28-year-old fought back to compete in the men's moguls competition in Pyeongchang.

"I couldn't miss the Games. It's been so much hard work, commitment and great results these last four years," Marquis said. "I wanted to do as much as I could to get to the big show and as soon as I said that, everyone got behind me."

The Quebec City native qualified for the final in eighth, saying it was a "miracle" he made it to the bottom.

The reality of the injury hit in the final when Marquis's knee gave out on his first run, after which he looked toward the camera and displayed the message written on his gloves: "Keep fighting."

'Heart of a lion'

It's a message fellow mogul skier Justine Dufour-Lapointe is familiar with. Last month, she and her sisters revealed that their mother, Johane, had been battling cancer.  

"Last winter, we learned that our mother had cancer and that has affected us whether we wanted it to or not," Chloe Dufour-Lapointe told The Canadian Press. "It changes your life. It knocks you over."

Johane has been in remission since August, but Justine had to put all of those emotions aside before her silver-medal run of the women's super final.

"When I was up there, I was just thinking: 'this is it,'" the Montrealer told reporters. "'This is my last run, my moment and I want to control it and decide what to do, despite everyone, all the world watching me now."

With everything on the line, the 23-year-old delivered one of her finest performances.

Being at peace with herself

​Dara Howell won Olympic gold in the inaugural women's ski slopestyle competition in Sochi, but she struggled with the success.

The 23-year-old's sudden rise to fame became overwhelming and Howell had to take a few years away from the sport, suffering from anxiety and depression, as well as a lingering concussion.

"I didn't really realize what was going on, it was kind of thrown at me. As a young girl, I was just trying to figure out what I wanted and where I wanted to go in life," Howell told CBC Sports over the phone from South Korea.  

It wasn't until this past year that the Huntsville, Ont., native returned to the slopes with a rediscovered love for the sport.

She arrived in Pyeongchang feeling like her old self and while she failed to defend her gold medal, Howell is happy to say that she's finally at peace with herself.

"It's disappointing because you work so hard for that one moment [but] I don't think that winning a medal at the Olympics is what defines you — it's the journey you take to get there," Howell said.

Howell intends to compete at the next Games in Beijing and it's not out of the question to see Dufour-Lapointe join her. Meanwhile, Marquis will undergo surgery for his torn ACL.