The 'heart of a lion': Justine Dufour-Lapointe held nothing back en route to podium

Moguls silver medallist pulls off gutsy performance despite struggles this season

The 'heart of a lion': Justine Dufour-Lapointe held nothing back en route to podium
Canada's Justine Dufour-Lapointe celebrates after her final run in the women's moguls final. She was the lone Canadian to reach the podium, claiming silver. © Kevin Light/CBC Sports

By Vicki Hall, CBC Sports

With an Olympic medal on the line, the youngest of the famous Dufour-Lapointe sisters held nothing back Sunday morning as she assailed the mogul field at Phoenix Snow Park.

Screaming "tall, tall, tall", Justine Dufour-Lapointe soared over the final jump and nailed her backflip iron cross to land in gold-medal contention.

"When I was up there, I was just thinking: 'this is it,'" the Montrealer told reporters on a snowy night befitting of the Winter Olympic Games. "'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.

"It's only me who decides what happens next.'"

Watch Justine Dufour-Lapointe's silver medal run below:

Her score of 78.56  — less than a tenth behind the eventual gold medallist Perrine Laffont, of France — gave Canada its third silver at the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

It's not the gold she won four years ago in Sochi. But this time around, Dufour-Lapointe checked into the Athletes' Village as a certified underdog.

'I did not miss a thing'

Talk about performance on demand. Talk about clutch.

"I did not miss a thing, and that was, for me, the only thing that I was proud of," Dufour-Lapointe said. "I crossed that finish line knowing that no matter what happened next, this was it. This was the best run I could put down at the right moment, and now it's the judges' decision.

"I thought if I could only do something that I could be proud of and knowing that I did everything I could — no matter what the medal is… All the skiers were so tough, it was such a hard year, and I feel stronger than I was back in Sochi actually."

Click on the video below to hear why this medal means so much to Justine Dufour-Lapointe:

Dufour-Lapointe, 23, wept openly as she searched the crowd for her family. But these were tears of joy – unlike those of Canadian teammate Andi Naude.

Naude earned the right to go last in the super final. With gold on the line, she landed her first jump but lost control in the moguls on a run that went down as a "Did Not Finish."

Click on the video below to see Andi Naude's final run:

Heartbreak for Naude

"Obviously I threw a couple of nerves in that," Naude said. "I was just trying to focus on what I love to do and that's to ski. Being on top, going down last at the Olympic Games, that's really special.

"Sorry, I'm a little emotional. I'm happy with how it ended, but not thrilled for sure."

Naude, 22, narrowly missed out on qualifying for the 2014 Sochi Games. She comforted herself by baking cookies and cuddling her cats before channeling her heartbreak into qualifying — and winning — in Pyeongchang.

Click on the video below to hear Naude's post-race interview:

The Penticton, B.C., product is ranked second in the world. Dufour-Lapointe is sixth.

But there's no way to put a price-tag on Olympic experience.

"I know that girl," Dufour-Lapointe said of Naude. "She works so hard. I would have loved to give her a thousand hugs and a thousand kisses. But she has to give it to herself.

"It's a big moment for her and she has to live it. But I just told her that I was proud of her."

Dufour-Lapointe is also proud of herself. Along with her sisters Chloe and Maxime, she struggled all season knowing her mother, 57-year-old Johane, was battling cancer (she is in remission and made the trip to Pyeongchang).

Happy, healthy family

"My parents are here which is the thing that I'm most happy for," Dufour-Lapointe said. "It's having happy, healthy parents, happy, healthy family around me. It's the only thing that counts at the end of the day, if you don't have anybody to hug."

On Sunday, Chloe Dufour-Lapointe, the silver medallist in Sochi, finished 13th. Maxime Dufour-Lapointe failed to qualify for these Games.

That left the fiery Justine as the only sister standing with what she likes to call "the heart of a lion."

In truth, the youngest sister also has an iron constitution. The brighter the spotlight, the higher the odds, the better she performs.

"I feel so different than I was in Sochi," she said. "In Sochi, I was completely a kid, enjoying this life, not knowing what's going on around.

"But today... I know what to do, to focus on myself, my ski, my line, my moment, and that's all. Because if not, I won't be proud of me."