The prince of Nordic combined
An Olympic champion at Vancouver 2010, France’s Jason Lamy-Chappuis followed up by becoming the world No1 in Nordic combined and his country’s flagbearer at Sochi 2014. After earning his airline pilot’s licence, he returned to contest the final Olympic Winter Games of his career at PyeongChang 2018.
Jason Lamy-Chappuis was born to an American mother and French father in Montana (USA) in 1986. “I was just five weeks old when I flew between Montana and France for the first time,” he explained. “Maybe that’s where my passion for aviation and desire to become an airline pilot comes from.”
In 1991, when the dual national was four, his family moved to France, settling in Bois d’Amont, a village situated within the Rousses ski resort in the Jura region. He took a liking to cross country skiing and tried his hand at ski jumping, winning his first competition in the discipline as a seven-year-old on 15 January 1994. In 1999, he decided to marry both of his interests by focusing on the Nordic combined.
Lamy-Chappuis claimed his first major international triumph at the 2003 European Youth Olympic Festival in Bled (SLO). “It was then that I realised what elite-level skiing was all about,” said the French competitor. At the age of 19, he made his Olympic debut at Turin 2006, raising a few eyebrows by finishing fourth in the sprint event.
Already equipped with excellent jumping skills, he admitted after Turin that he needed to up his game in cross-country if he was going to compete with the leading lights of Nordic combined.
Rise to the summit
Building on his high-quality jumping and gradually improving his cross-country technique, strategy and endurance, Lamy-Chappuis picked up his first FIS Nordic Combined World Cup win in a sprint in Sapporo (JPN), a month after the Turin Games. He continued to make progress over the ensuing seasons, racking up several victories and top-three finishes, as well as two bronze medals at the 2009 FIS World Championships in Liberec (CZE).
On 14 February 2010 at Whistler Olympic Park, Lamy-Chappuis got his Vancouver Games campaign off to a solid start by placing fifth in the ski jumping part of the men’s individual normal hill/10km competition. In the staggered 10km cross-country race, he swiftly caught up with the leaders, but demonstrated tactical nous by holding back until the dying moments.
As the group of four leading skiers rounded the final bend, Lamy-Chappuis surged past Johnny Spillane (USA) to become only the second Frenchman to secure an Olympic gold medal in Nordic combined, after Fabrice Guy at Albertville 1992.
In the subsequent large hill/10km contest a few days later, strong winds put paid to his dreams of a remarkable double, and he eventually finished in 18th position. In the team event, meanwhile, France’s quartet, featuring Lamy-Chappuis, Maxime Laheurte, François Braud and Sébastien Lacroix, finished just outside the medals in fourth.
On top of the world
Following his Olympic triumph, the man nicknamed “Flying Jason” promptly soared to the top of the world rankings. A series of positive results followed, including three overall FIS World Cup wins (in 2010, 2011 and 2012) and four FIS World Championship titles, in 2011 (on the legendary large hill in Holmenkollen, Oslo), and 2013 (in the team sprint, team normal hill and individual 10km/normal hill competitions in Val di Flemme, Italy).
“I had to live up to my Olympic title. I had to remain at the top of the rankings and stay completely focused. It was a really enjoyable time,” he recalled. On 7 February 2014, he was France’s flagbearer at the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi Games, but once the competition started he struggled to emulate his feats of four years earlier.Leave and come back again
Discussing his continuing Olympic dreams afterwards, he said: “You live for those moments. Joys and disappointments punctuate our careers. That’s the beauty of sport.”
An aviation enthusiast and budding commercial pilot at the time, Lamy-Chappuis then announced in March 2015 that he was retiring from competition to continue his pilot training. He had just won his eighth French national title, having by this stage racked up 60 podium finishes, 26 of them wins.
Two years later, having duly obtained his licence, he announced his intention to compete in his fourth Olympic Games, at PyeongChang 2018. “There’s nothing but positive aspects to my return to competition. I’ve got nothing to lose; I just want to experience those great moments once more. It’s a bet. If it comes off, great; if not, too bad,” he explained. “I’ve already had everything and more in my career!”
Ending on a high
Lamy-Chappuis finished well out of the medals in the two individual events at PyeongChang 2018 before linking up with Antoine Gérard, François Braud and Maxime Laheurte in the team competition. Having finished fourth in the event at Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014, Lamy-Chappuis came up just short with his team-mates again, as they came in fifth behind Japan, Austria, Norway and gold medallists Germany.
“We did the best we could and we gave our all,” the Frenchman later said. “It’s a mix of emotions. There’s disappointment and also regret that it wasn’t to be today.”
Lamy-Chappuis competed in his final World Cup race in Kliegenthal (GER) on 18 March and bowed out with a ninth French national title two weeks later, in the stadium in Premanon that bears his name, the last act of a sporting career that he has now swapped for the cockpit.