From January 2010 to March 2011, Kevin Rolland won four straight X Games Ski SuperPipe gold medals. In the three years since, Rolland has fought back from a torn ACL and seen the rest of the world catch up to -- and, in some cases, surpass -- his double-cork wizardry. The 24-year-old Frenchman finished fourth the past two years at X Games Aspen, but he remains arguably the best halfpipe skier in Europe and the continent's best hope for gold at the Sochi Winter Olympics.
This past summer, Rolland and his personal filmer, Mathias Lopez, teamed up with the French TV network Canal+ Sport to make a documentary about his preparation for the 2014 Olympics. The film, "Destination Sochi," which premiered in Paris last month and debuted on television in France in January, is most interesting when Olympians from other sports advise Rolland on his preparation for Russia. Among them: track and field legend Carl Lewis, basketball star Boris Diaw and 2012 Olympic champion pole vaulter Renaud Lavillenie.
Rolland sat down to discuss what a pipe skier can learn from a pole vaulter, the idea of saving tricks for the Olympics and the prospect of triple corks in the halfpipe.
XGames.com: Why did you include athletes from other sports in your film?
Kevin Rolland: Everybody kept telling me that the Olympics are really special and different from other competitions. And you have to be prepared for that mentally. I was questioning myself -- am I ready? -- so I wanted to talk to people who have been there. To me, sport -- whether you're doing track, skiing, football -- it's the same thing.
Tell me about meeting Carl Lewis.
I met him through Nike during X Games Los Angeles at the L.A. Coliseum, where he won four Olympic gold medals in 1984. I was nervous at the beginning because it's Carl Lewis, and also because my English is not perfect. First he asked me, "Do you know how to win the Olympics?" I'm like, "Yeah, yeah, I have to train a lot to be strong." And he was like, "No, you don't understand the question. What exactly do you have to do? A triple, a quadruple?" And I said, "Yeah, I have to do tricks that are different from the other skiers." So he said, "That's the key. You have to train on those things specifically, and almost forget about the rest."
Did he give you any mental advice?
He told me the long jumpers in their mind always said, "I don't want to lose." And that's really bad. You can't win the Olympics if you say, "I don't want to lose." You go there to win. It's really basic, but if you don't hear it from a guy like that, you don't realize that you have to think you're going there to win, and that's it.
Do you think we'll see a skier land a triple cork in the Olympic halfpipe?
I think maybe we will see one, but if we see a triple, it's going to be really ugly. Maybe I'm wrong. But if you do a triple and it's ugly, why do it? It's nothing to do a triple if it's ugly. If I see someone doing a really stylish triple, I'm going to clap my hands.
What can a pole vaulter teach a pipe skier?
How to take a consistent approach at every event. I spent a day with Renaud Lavillenie at a very important competition in Monaco, right before the world championships. I had lunch with him then watched the comp with his coach. I saw that we don't have to be scared of the Olympics, because it's going to be exactly the same people and the same competition. If you win, there will be more impact, but what you have to do in the halfpipe will be the same as what you have to do in the X Games.
Talk about the strategy of saving tricks for the Olympics versus showing them early in the season.
For me, if you keep a trick for the Olympics, it's not because you don't want the other athletes to see, it's more to not show it to the judges. Judges are getting bored at the end of the year, and they've seen the same run at every event. So if you do something new at the Olympics, for sure it's a good idea.
What do you personally have to do to win in Sochi?
I have to go really high, I have to do some unnatural stuff, be better on right-side [tricks] and I have to land a new trick that I can't do right now, but I'm working on it and if I land it, I will be happy with myself.
Film teaser courtesy Production 10.7.