Marion Rolland gets mean...sort of...
By Michael Mastarciyan
Marion Rolland doesn't have a mean bone in her body - at least she didn't the last time I saw her - and that was before she racked up two podiums in two days in March at the World Cup finals in Schladming, Austria.
I haven’t seen any bone x-rays firsthand, but according to the French speed specialist, she has undergone significant physiological alterations in recent months, and it can now be reported that Ms. Rolland has added a few “mean” bones to her previously mean-bone-free anatomy.
“It goes back to last year when my coaches told me to start getting mean on the slopes, to get more aggressive on the tracks, to get hungrier and to want to win races more. It’s not like I wasn’t hungry enough for success but I think I was lacking some confidence in myself and in my racing ability. This year, my new coaches echoed what last year’s coaches told me, and encouraged me to be merciless while racing. They kept repeating before every race, ‘get mean, get nasty, get mean, get nasty,’ but they meant it in relation to me and the track I was skiing on,” says Rolland.
“Now, after the success I had in Schladming, I think I finally got what they meant. I got mean and nasty in a good way - not in a way like I wanted to kill all my competitors. It’s my personal relationship with the mountain, the snow, and the timing clock that’s gotten mean and nasty. My skis finally got meaner, my desire to succeed got nastier and it worked. Getting meaner when I race doesn’t change me as a person, in the end it’s my relationship with the race that’s changed not my relationship with my fellow competitors.”
“I don’t know if you can say it, but my coaches even used a word that’s much stronger than mean or nasty to motivate me,” Rolland then confesses, with a giggle.
“In French it’s...” (blurting out a word that can’t be repeated here).
“I think in English it means...”(blurting out another word that starts with the letter B and is a term for a female dog that also can’t be repeated here).
Rolland's lack of mean bones had always been a source of mystery to me.
I thought she would grow one or two for sure after the tsunami of negativity and viral ridicule she suffered after her heartbreaking fall at the Vancouver Olympic Games - but it never happened.
The friendly, funny, and mean-bone-free racer I interviewed before the games was the same person I interviewed afterward - and, despite having had the sky fall on her head, Rolland weathered the virtual storm the world wide web threw down on her, and kept smiling and skiing.
“After the Olympics I was mad at the people who were making fun of me, saying terrible things and trying to take me down on the internet. Initially I wanted to get some revenge on my detractors by showing them that I could succeed. But once my knee injury healed and I got back on snow my thinking changed. I reminded myself that I got to the Olympics because I earned a spot there, that I was one of the four best skiers in France, one of the twenty best in the world and that I had absolutely nothing to prove,” Rolland says.
“Being on the podium two days in a row in Schladming was a dream come true - but to be honest, I didn’t feel any kind of revenge. My success there was simply the continuation of the work I started before the Olympics. The Olympics kind of put all the work I was doing on standby, but now that work is back on and I’m back on track. It took me a bit longer than planned to get on the podium but in the end it’s the product of hard work and I’m proud of that.”
Having finally cracked the podium barrier, Rolland is now focussing on carrying the good vibes and positivity gained from her World Cup finals experience into the summer and the new season that will follow when the leaves fall and the snow begins to fly again.
“When you haven’t been on the podium, you don’t know what it’s really like. You can imagine what it’s like, you can want to be there, but it’s different when you really make it up there. Once you’ve done this, your skiing changes, it almost feels easier. Success simply becomes a question of getting into a racing frame of mind and getting your mind, body and skis on the same wave length,” Rolland says in a contemplative tone, channelling her inner-Yogi.
“I’m going to try to remember the feeling of being on the podium this summer and I’m going to try to channel it when I’m working hard during dry-land training - which by the way isn’t always a party. If I can keep the joy of the podium and the easy and relaxed sensation I had on my skis that got me onto the podium in my mind when I’m sweating it out in the gym this summer, I think I will be in great shape for more success next season.”