For close followers of freestyle skiing, Kim Lamarre's bronze medal Tuesday afternoon in the women's ski slopestyle event may have come as something of a surprise. After all, the 25-year-old Québec City native has just one career podium finish in her career, winning the bronze in 2011 at Winter X Games Europe.
Her North American record is spottier. She placed 10th out of 10 skiers at the ski slopestyle event at the 2012 Winter X Games in Aspen, and was left off the 2013 Canadian team thanks to injury, having to pay her own way for training and travel. Lamarre pulled out an 85.40 score on her first qualification run, easily putting her in the final and actually placing second in qualification behind fellow Canadian and eventual gold medallist Dara Howell.
Though she had to fund her training and travel, she has Olympic blood running through her. Her grandmother Ginette Seguin was an alpine skier at the 1956 Olympic games in Cortina d'Ampezzo. Seguin finished 33rd in the women's downhill and 18th in the slalom, well back of medal contention, but the fever didn't escape Lamarre. Per her Canadian Olympic Committee bio, Lamarre would wear her grandmother's Olympic outfits around the house, and took up skiing at age 2.
The bronze medal is a culmination of a redemption story played throughout the 2013-14 season. Two separate ACL tears shortened both her 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons, which could have led to her being overlooked this season. But against a pretty competitive field in Brackenridge this year for the Dew Tour, Lamarre placed 2nd behind American Devin Logan, who wound up winning the silver in Sochi.
Still, her 85.40 was a season's best score for Lamarre, and the 85.00 score on her second run would also have out-done either of her Dew Tour runs. She finished both her qualification and finals runs with a "no spin" air on the final jump of the course, hitting the jump switch (going backwards) and not spinning in the air, landing while facing uphill. Spins help the body stabilize in the air, so the trick has a high degree of difficulty, but she landed it both times.
But you could tell the respect other skiers have for Lamarre and her struggles. After finishing her second run, Logan immediately came up to give her a hug, and at the end of a long delay for Lamarre's score to be posted, the fourth place finisher, Australia's Anna Segal, appeared legitimately happy for her. Lamarre simply raised her hands and led out a long, audible "YAAAAY".
Is "surprise" the right word? Maybe "relief" is a better one, as Lamarre has fought through difficult injuries to wind up on the Olympic podium.