Jean-Luc Brassard explains why Quebec is so good at moguls
1994 Olympic champ blazed trail for today's stars
When it comes to moguls skiing, athletes from Quebec are the kings and queens of the hill.
Since the sport became a part of the Olympic program in 1992, seven of the eight medals won by Canadians have come from Quebecers.
Jean-Luc Brassard (Olympic gold in 1994), Alexandre Bilodeau (gold in 2010 and '14), the Dufour-Lapointe sisters (Justine and Chloe won gold and silver, respectively, in 2014) and Mikael Kingsbury (silver in 2014, and the all-time leader in World Cup men's wins) all call la belle province home.
CBC Sports recently caught up with Canada's first Olympic moguls champion, Brassard, to find out the province's secret.
CBC Sports: Why is there a culture of moguls skiing in Quebec?
Jean-Luc Brassard: There is a rich skiing history in Quebec, which is as rich as the history of hockey. Not too many people know that.
About 80 per cent of Quebecers live less than an hour away from a ski centre. Since most of our mountains are really small, you do a lot of repetition. If I would have grown up in B.C., I would not have been moguls skiing. I would have enjoyed the big mountain, powder skiing. Sometimes on our little mountains in Quebec the most thrilling part is the moguls. When you're a kid you want to be skiing, bouncing, jumping and being a little bit free. This is an activity that Quebecers really embrace.
CBC: What does it mean to the kids in Quebec to have role models to look up to?
JLB: The success of Alexandre Bilodeau, the success of Mikael Kingsbury and the Dufour-Lapointe sisters, all these names make a direct emulation [possible] for these kids. They want to be like their idols. Other Canadians want to be like Sidney Crosby while over here they want to be like Kingsbury. These athletes show the way to be the best in the world. We have a great model right here.
CBC: Who was it for you?
JLB: My success is actually related to CBC/Radio-Canada. One day on a Saturday afternoon they broadcast a moguls World Cup event. From my teenage eyes it changed my world.
I just couldn't believe how fast the knees of the athletes were bouncing down the hill. It was just a revelation. As soon as the TV show was over, and I recorded it on my VCR, me and my friend went through the tape and learned to do moguls skiing. We watched the Americans, the French team, the Finnish team. Those were my idols. Their names meant nothing to Canadians but everything to me.
CBC: Do you consider yourself a pioneer in the sport?
JLB: I did my part. Some others have done their part. Moguls becoming a part of the Olympics had a huge [impact] on the popularity of the sport.
So many people still remember me winning in 1994. I'm so proud of what I have accomplished. But I'm so amazed about what Bilodeau has done, winning the Olympics twice. For me, because I've done four Olympic Games, I don't know anything more difficult in life than winning the Olympics twice. It's so much pressure. The run that Bilodeau did in Sochi for his second win was even better than in Vancouver. It was magical. And now seeing Mikael pushing the limits of the sport to a whole new level — his winning run before Christmas was a whole new level. It was like Wayne Gretzky crossing the ice and scoring a goal in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final.
CBC: Do you still watch the sport and the Canadian athletes closely?
JLB: I still love it. I'm so proud of these kids. The Dufour-Lapointe sisters — these girls do so much for women in sport in the country.
When it's time to compete they compete at the highest level. I've been doing a real close-up on the performances. It's never easy but the Canadians are strong. It's also nice to see sponsorship in this country going to these athletes that I didn't see during my time.
CBC: Is there an inside secret then to the moguls success in Quebec?
JLB: It's the impact of emulation. Having the model close to you. The athletes are so accessible. I skied with Alexandre Bilodeau randomly the other day and he was just chit-chatting with other skiers on the mountain. There were no barriers, no celebrity factor. They're just normal people and it's great to see these athletes putting the love of their sport to inspire other kids to get involved.