Age no limit for teen sensation Ledeux
A world ski slopestyle champion at 15 in her maiden season on the senior circuit, French teenager Tess Ledeux is hoping to fulfil her childhood dream of Olympic success at PyeongChang 2018.
“I’m so happy at winning this World Cup event on home snow in France,” enthused Ledeux after claiming a superb ski slopestyle victory in Font-Romeu (FRA) on 23 December 2017.
“I began the year on the podium and I’ve ended it in the same place. I’m so thrilled. I hope 2018 has lots of good surprises in store for me,” she added.
After scoring 92.80 points on her first run, the French teenager then chalked up 93.60 on her second to win by a distance and cement her status as one of the favourites for Olympic gold at Bokwang Phoenix Park on 17 February 2018.
Destined for greatness
Born on 23 November 2001 in Bourg Saint-Maurice, not far from Albertville – the host city of the 1992 Olympic Winter Games – Ledeux is the cousin of Kévin Rolland, one of the world’s leading ski halfpipe specialists.
Taking up skiing as soon as she could walk, she joined the La Plagne Sports Club at the age of seven and began her love affair with freestyle shortly afterwards.
“Up to the age of nine, I learned the basics and how to ski,” said Ledeux. “I had to do slalom but I didn’t like it. So Kévin took my sister and I to the snowpark so we could give freestyle skiing a go. That was when I changed direction and joined the freestyle club.”
A precocious talent
“Slopestyle gives me a rush; I feel like I’m flying,” says the French sensation. “There’s also the adrenaline of competing and the stress you feel at the start, of not knowing if it’s going to work out or not.
Nothing short of a phenomenon in her sport, the incredibly talented Ledeux dominated the domestic scene at the start of her career, landing the French youth, junior and senior titles by the age of 13.
She was too young, however, to compete in international junior competitions and the FIS World Cup, the minimum ages for which are 14 and 15 respectively. “I was good enough though,” she adds.
Slopestyle gives me a rush; I feel like I’m flyingTess Ledeux
A winning World Cup debut
Ledeux was 14 when she took part in and won her first FIS competition in November 2015, on the Glacier 3000 course at Les Diablerets (SUI).
She repeated the feat on her World Cup debut on 14 January 2017 in Font-Romeu, topping the podium at what was also a qualifying event for PyeongChang 2018 to become the youngest member of France’s Olympic team.
X Games glory
Two weeks later, the irrepressible Ledeux made her X Games debut in Aspen (USA), where she nailed a difficult manoeuvre called a Bio 720 Safety during a superb first run, which earned her 90 points and a silver medal, behind Estonia’s Kelly Sildaru, one year her junior.
When she made her X Games return in Hafjell (NOR) on 10 March 2017, the French teen collected another silver, finishing just two points adrift of local rider Johanne Killi.
A world champion
Ledeux maintained her remarkable start to her senior career at the 2017 FIS Freestyle Ski and Snowboarding World Championships in Sierra Nevada (ESP), despite falling on her first run.
On her second descent, she put together a perfectly executed sequence of spins, grinds, grabs and flips to score 85.60 points, a total no one else could match.
Though she failed to complete her third and final run, it made no difference – the world title was already hers, as she finished ahead of experienced athletes Emma Dahltsrom of Sweden and Great Britain’s Isabel Atkin, who took silver and bronze respectively.
Sky is the limit
“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” she commented afterwards. “I had hopes of being a world champion one day, but not this year. I’ve never been so stressed. My stomach was hurting at the start, but I knew that was also where my strength lay.
“I’m happy with my performance. My cousin Kévin kept telling me there were three races I couldn’t miss this year: the worlds and the X Games in Aspen and Oslo.”
After a year of podium finishes rounded off by a victory in Font-Romeu, Ledeux has left nobody doubting that she will be one to watch at PyeongChang 2018.
Having embarked on her career with a world title win, she now has Olympic gold in her sights. And she is hoping that she won’t be the only family member to make the podium in PyeongChang.
“I’m on the way to making my dream come true and with Kévin too,” she says. “Let’s hope we can each pick up a medal.”