MONTREAL — Their identical radiant smiles give them away: three Canadian sisters who are inseparable, at the top of their sport and all three headed to Sochi to compete in the Olympics.
Freestyle skiers Maxime, Chloe and Justine Dufour Lapointe will become the first sister trio and only the fifth siblings to do so.
Sports historians say three Leduc sisters from France competed in the 1960 women’s slalom, and the Jerman brothers from Argentina competed in 1976 in cross-country skiing. Three Stastny brothers from Czechoslovakia played Olympic hockey in 1980, and four Tames brothers made up the Mexican bobsled team at the 1988 Games.
Maxime, 24, Chloe, 22, and Justine, 19, wear their red-and-black Team Canada jackets with pride, while their mother also beams in the background, "so happy that each of my three girls is realising her dream".
"When I was 12 or 13 and on the provincial team, that’s when I knew that I wanted to go to the Olympics," said Chloe, who will be competing at her second games in Sochi. In Vancouver in 2010, she came fifth in her sport.
For the Dufour Lapointe family, skiing was merely a winter pastime, when ice and snow prevented them from sailing.
"We’ve been sailing since the age of 16 and we’re now 53," said mom, now their agent.
"We’d always be on a boat in the summer and in winter. For outdoor activities we turned to skiing and it was around age three that the girls took their first skiing lessons. Going skiing with our parents, we always went into the back country or to ski-jumping hills."
"We’ve always been adventurous," said Chloe, explaining her passion for winter acrobatics.
Maxime, while watching a ski-jumping competition at age 10, decided: "I want to do that."
Hesitant at the start, her parents realised that their eldest girl "had talent and liked it", and soon her younger siblings started to imitate her, recalled matriarch Johane Dufour.
In order to keep up their education, they would cram schooling into four days each week, leaving them free to train on Fridays to compete on weekends.
"These girls have never been apart," and whatever challenges the future brings they will meet them together, said mom, recalling how they used to play together during long sailing trips.
That closeness may someday persist into a new career in fashion, with Chloe doing marketing, Justine responsible for management and Maxime doing the actual sewing and stitching.
"Our skills and abilities are complementary," said Chloe, revealing that the three girls would like to launch a clothing line. They have already chosen a possible brand name: "3SDL" for "three sisters Dufour Lapointe."
"Oh so cute," interrupts Justine when she spies Chloe’s nails painted with the Olympic rings and Canada’s Maple Leaf flag.
Now it is her turn at a beauty salon attached to the gym in Montreal where the girls train.
Everything is being done to prepare Justine, Chloe and Maxime — ranked second, third and fifth in the world in their sport, respectively — to shine in Sochi, and win gold.
They will be competing against moguls champion Hannah Kearney of the US.
They are focused on "getting past the finish line and then the final decision will be in the hands of the judges", Chloe said.
On February 8, mom and dad will waiting for them "at the bottom of the slope" and cheering them on.
The best outcome would be to see all three sisters on the winners’ podium — which would be a first in Olympic history.