Photo: Canadian Freestyle Ski Association

Rochon Aiming High

One year can change someone’s outlook on life. Just ask Olivier Rochon.

The 2014 Sochi hopeful in aerials was suspended for the 2011 season for disciplinary reasons by the Canadian Freestyle Association. A move meant to motivate Rochon and have him realize the potential he had should not go to waste.

“I changed everything in my training and how I thought of things after coming back from suspension,” said Rochon. “You really get to think about what you do and if you want to live through your sport. You realize what you’re doing isn’t a pastime, it’s a job. You get to represent your country.”

The native of Gatineau, Que. came back to the World Cup circuit on a mission and captured the first Crystal Globe title of his career after earning five podium finishes, including a silver medal in his first event back from suspension.

The award put Rochon in elite company with aerialists like three-time Olympian and world champion Steve Omischl and four-time Olympian Nicolas Fontaine.

“I think one of the reasons why last year went so well was because I came in really relaxed,” said Rochon. “I never really stressed going into competitions and I think it’s an advantage. I always tell myself, ‘Just do what you do and you know you’re good at it. Just relax and have fun.’ And it seems to work for me.”

Starting the year off right

Photo: CP Images

Olivier Rochon jumps to a silver medal in the men's aerials World Cup freestyle event at Mont-Gabriel in Sainte-Adele, Que. in his first event after returning from suspension. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

With every Crystal Globe comes big expectations to have a repeat performance, but Rochon did not disappoint in his first competition of the 2013 season in Changchun, China.

The 23-year-old launched himself into a third place finish to capture a bronze medal with a point total of 84.75. He was pleased with a return to the podium to start the year, but said he knew there was a lot of room for improvement after not being able to have the type of training camp his team ideally wanted due to poor weather conditions.

“This competition was really an extension of our (pre-season) training camp because we didn’t really get to finish the camp because of bad weather,” said Rochon after the competition. “I didn’t have a chance to get up to my full degree of difficulty. I did make a small mistake on my last jump, but I knew that even if I hadn’t, I couldn’t have scored high enough to give me a win, so I’m really happy with the result. It’s the best I could have hoped for.”

The short training camp and the frigid temperatures dipped to as low as -30 Celsius and did not allow Rochon to show his full and new arsenal that includes two new jumps he learned this past summer. The podium placement was a great start to the season and something he hopes to continue when he travels to Val St. Come, Que. on January 12th for the second stop of the World Cup tour.

But in an Olympic qualification year, Rochon believes this season is about a lot more than just attempting to repeat as Crystal Globe winner.

Hungry for more

Photo: CP Images

Olivier Rochon celebrates one of his many World Cup podium finishes in aerials during the 2012 season. The Crystal Globe winner is aiming high in 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Bolin

Rochon’s big goal for this season will be to qualify for his first Olympic Games. The bitterness of failing to qualify for Vancouver by a measly point is still there for the gritty athlete.

“I barely missed qualifying for Vancouver,” explained Rochon. “We didn’t medal there and I feel like I could have brought something to the team. Sochi 2014 is my opportunity to do that. I feel like I was born to do this and represent my country and win a medal.”

When he met with his coaches over the summer, they devised a plan to take pressure off of Rochon, something that he was feeling for the first time as a Crystal Globe winner. The team set out to think about Olympic qualification first and foremost and in doing so, everything else would fall into place.

This was a dream come true for an athlete with his sights set on competing for Canada on the world’s biggest stage.

“When a season comes up, you always give yourself goals and objectives and of course the Olympic Games is my main one,” said Rochon. “I don’t want to get ahead of myself and lose sight of the goal. I need to take this step by step, avoid mistakes and it can happen.”

Just getting to Sochi won’t be enough.

“The reaction of winning a medal at the Olympics says it all,” said Rochon. “They’ve been training all their life for it and it gives me shivers watching it. I want to be able to live that.”

– George Fadel