French freestyle skiing’s comeback kid
A freestyle halfpipe pioneer, French skier Marie Martinod took a lengthy break from the competitive arena to start a family. Inspired to return by the inclusion of her sport on the Olympic programme, she made her mark on its debut at Sochi 2014, winning a silver medal. An X Games superpipe gold medallist in Aspen in January 2017, she is now aiming to top the podium at PyeongChang 2018.
In the blood“My mother was a ski instructor and my father drove a snow groomer, so you could say that the mountains and skiing are in my blood,” writes Marie Martinod on her official website. Born in La Plagne, she was only seven when the Winter Olympic Games came to town in nearby Albertville in 1992, an event that inspired her.
On skis as soon as she was able to walk, her ambition was to excel at moguls and aerials, like her idols at the Albertville Games. Making great strides with her local ski club from the age of nine, she went on to become a pioneer of halfpipe skiing, a new sport that was growing in popularity.
A landmark winA very skilled exponent of the halfpipe, Martinod won a string of national competitions before lining up in the inaugural FIS Freestyle Skiing World Cup season in 2003/04. The winner of three events, she collected the halfpipe crystal globe at the end of the campaign. She also made a name for herself at the X-Games, winning bronze at the age of 22 on the Aspen superpipe in 2006.
Time-out and a return to actionIt was then that Martinod decided to give it all up for love, opening a bar with her partner in La Plagne and giving birth to their daughter, Mélirose, in 2009. Having turned her back on competitive skiing, she was lured back to it in 2011, when she learned that the freestyle halfpipe was to be included on the Olympic Winter Games programme. Inspired to clamp on her skis again after her long break, she began her bid to qualify Sochi 2014.
Olympic silverMartinod got straight back into the rhythm. Working hard with her coach, Greg Guenet, she devoted body and soul to her new objectives, and returned to winning ways in 2013, taking halfpipe victory at the X Games Europe in Tignes.
Within a year she was picking up Olympic silver in Sochi at the age of 29, breaking out a McTwist and a 900 on her second run to score 84.50 points and finish second to the USA’s Maddie Bowman on the halfpipe’s Games debut
“Ten years after my international debut I came within touching distance of my dream,” she said afterwards. Waiting for her in the arrival area at Rosa Khutor along with her daughter, mother and the rest of her supporters, was her partner Maxime, who said: “She’s trained and she’s suffered for it and now she’s got her reward. It’s great.”
“I wanted to show my daughter what it feels like to reach a goal that you’ve set for yourself,” said Martinod at the time. “She has to understand why I was doing sit-ups while she was watching cartoons.”
On the road to PyeongChangThe veteran of the freestyle scene, Martinod is pursuing a new goal: to win gold at PyeongChang 2018. Though a knee injury kept her out of action during the 2015 season, she was back in 2016, scoring top-three finishes in the World Cup and recording her first win since 2004, in the halfpipe on Copper Mountain (USA). Then came a career highpoint in January 2017, when Martinod took X Games gold on the Aspen superpipe, the French skier scoring 89.33 points on her first run to win from Olympic halfpipe champion Bowman.
There was more to come. After claiming another World Cup victory on Mammoth Mountain (USA), she took the honours in the pre-Olympic halfpipe competition at Phoenix Bokwang Park, PyeongChang, on 18 February 2017, a victory that secured her a second FIS halfpipe crystal globe, 13 years after the first.
“To win a gold here, a year before the Games, is fantastic. It’s very exciting, though it’s going to put extra pressure on me because people will be expecting a lot of me now,” she said. “I’m going to take that pressure and convert it into training and determination. We’ll see where it takes me in 2018.”
The self-styled “grand old lady on the Halfpipe World Cup circuit” is fully focused on ensuring that her 2018 journey includes a gold medal in PyeongChang.